Central region

South-Central Region Immediately Moves to Phase 2 of State’s Reopening Plan

Mai Hoang / Yakima Herald-Republic

Yakima County and the other five counties in the South Central region are moving immediately to Phase 2 due to a review of hospital admissions data that shows the region has reached enough metrics to do so. , which provides a major boost to local businesses and high school athletics.

Gov. Jay Inslee said in a tweet on Sunday that the delay was due to hospital error.

“Due to a reporting error by a hospital, the Central (South) region was the only one not moving into Phase 2 this week,” Inslee tweeted. “I’m glad the hospital found the error, reported it, and now the region can move forward. This means our entire state is now in Phase 2.”

In Phase 2, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity and indoor fitness centers can increase capacity to 25%. Additionally, high school sports leagues can begin a modified fall sports season, as planned, later this month, with restrictions lifted on many sports as part of Phase 2.

Initially, Inslee announced Thursday that the South Central region, which includes Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Kittitas, Columbia and Walla Walla counties, was to remain in Phase 1 due to only two of the four measures that the State public health officials are following. Other areas of the state were able to progress or were already in Phase 2 due to meeting at least three of the four metrics, which look at new cases, hospital admissions, critical care capacity and positive test rate.

According to the state Department of Health report, the region remained in Phase 1 due to an increase in hospital admissions and a high rate of positive tests.

But news of rising hospital admissions in the South Central region ran counter to what local health districts and departments were reporting, Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney said.

“I knew for a fact that Yakima County data (on hospitalizations) was down significantly,” she said.

McKinney said that led to a massive coordination effort by elected officials and area health departments to investigate the number of hospitalizations. She particularly congratulated the health district of Yakima for the coordination of efforts between the health districts and departments of the south-central region.

Through this effort, an error from Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla was discovered. The hospital had sent the state Health Department data from all of its COVID patient admissions rather than new admissions. As a result of the error, the South Central region appeared to see an increase in admissions.

“The error was unintentional and we acted as quickly as possible to provide corrected data to the state,” hospital CEO Susan Blackburn said in a press release from the Department of Health. the state.

The hospital sent the correct data to the state health department. With the right data, it was clear that the South Central region, like the rest of the state, saw a steep drop in hospitalizations and reached enough metrics to move into Phase 2.

On Saturday, U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, and state senses Curtis King, R-Yakima, Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg and Andy Billig, D-Spokane, urged Inslee and the Department of Health to move the South Central Region into Phase 2 after correct hospital admission data has been submitted.

The state Department of Health said on its data dashboard that it would take a few days to update the dashboard, but confirmed that it had reviewed the data and that the central- south had reached the hospital admissions metric.

McKinney said it received data on hospital admission rates from health districts in all but one county in the South Central region, and all reported declines: Yakima, 36%; Walla Walla, 36%; Kittitas, 25%; Franklin, 25%; and Benton, 10%.

McKinney said she urged Inslee and state officials to consider releasing data to elected officials and health officials before reopening the announcements.

If this had been done before last week’s announcement, the error could have been caught sooner, she said.

“If we had found out in advance, even a day or a few hours, we could have said, ‘Hey, we don’t think that’s fair,'” McKinney said.

Newhouse, in a written statement Sunday, credited the efforts of local leaders and criticized Inslee’s approach to reopening.

“As this situation shows, it is local health officials and elected officials on the ground who are best equipped to manage the ongoing pandemic response — not the governor,” Newhouse wrote.

Still, for McKinney, it was a massive win for the community.

“We deserved it,” she said. “We are moving into phase 2 because of what everyone in Yakima County has done.”