Washington Governor Jay Inslee urged residents in Yakima County to do more to flatten the spread of the coronavirus.
Specifically, Inslee stressed the need for residents to wear masks when in public.
Yakima County has been hit hard by the virus with more than 5,700 infections among its 250,000 residents – the second-highest total in the state behind much higher populated King County.
The Governor noted a recent study that found only about 35% of Yakima County residents wear masks when patronizing a business. Inslee said Yakima County also needed more testing and more contact tracing of infected people to bring down the number of cases.
Officials have blamed a large number of cases in nursing homes, a larger than normal supply of essential workers who remained on the job, and the challenges posed by the county’s massive agriculture industry for the rise in COVID-19 cases.
About 45% of the county’s cases are found among the tens of thousands of Hispanic farm employees who work in the farms and food processing plants.
Inslee noted there were more than 340 new cases of the coronavirus in the past four days in Yakima County, and the high case numbers were preventing the reopening of businesses. Inslee added that local leaders have launched a public relations campaign to increase the use of masks.
In Washington state, there are also high COVID-19 numbers for Benton, Franklin and Chelan counties, which also have large numbers of farm workers. (AP)