It’s been a few months since I looked at the hot spots for the novel coronavirus in King County, so I figured it was time to revisit the data. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look so good.
While the general patterns remain the same — the highest rate of positive tests for the virus are in South County, and the lowest are in parts of Seattle and Vashon Island — the overall picture is worse.
In my previous column, I looked at data for two weeks in July. At that point, the rate of positive tests countywide had dipped below 4%. That’s no longer the case.
From Oct. 3 through Oct. 17, 4.4% of the tests for coronavirus in King County were positive. In that period, there were nearly 48,000 tests administered, and more than 2,100 were positive for the virus. There is one more recent data release available, but it is subject to significant corrections. I used slightly older data to ensure that it is accurate.
A higher positivity rate is one sign that transmission of the virus is accelerating. The state’s goal is a rate of 2% positive tests over a two-week period.
The higher numbers we’re seeing now are driving an increase in hospitalizations, and Gov. Jay Inslee has made recommendations for increased caution. The governor has advised people to avoid nonessential out-of-state travel and to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country on nonessential travel.
Within King County, there is a tremendous amount of variation in positive-test rates from place to place. The rates remain alarmingly high in some areas in the southernmost parts of the county.
The data comes from Public Health – Seattle & King County, and is reported for 48 Health Reporting Areas (HRA). These can be as small as neighborhoods or they can cut across cities and towns in less populated areas of the county. The test data is based on where people live, not on where the test was administered.
The highest positive-test rate for the two-week period was in the southeastern part of Kent, at 13.9% — that’s 154 positives out of 1,110 people tested. Two other areas were also above 10%: North Auburn and East Federal Way.
Most of South King County had higher than average positivity rates in the two-week period. That was also true back in July. But the bad news is that for many of these areas, the rates are higher than they were a few months ago. For example, when I looked at the July numbers, North Highline was 5% — in the new data, it’s at 9.8%. Burien was at 5.2% in July, and now it’s at 8.1%.
Some of the higher-than-average areas are not in South King County. Central Bellevue saw a 5.6% positivity rate for the two-week period in October. There were 39 positives out of 696 tests administered.
And Northeast Seattle, which includes the University District, was at 4.9% in the new data, up from 1.5% when I last checked the numbers. There were 116 positives out of 2,389 people tested. This area now has the highest positivity rate in Seattle, slightly worse than the Beacon Hill/Georgetown/South Park HRA.
When I looked at the July data, there were three HRAs with positive-test rates lower than 1%. There weren’t any in the October data.
Vashon Island, which had the lowest rate in July, no longer did in October. But it’s still very low. Vashon had four positives out of 238 people tested, for a rate of 1.7%.
Only three areas had lower rates, and they are all in Seattle: Queen Anne/Magnolia was the lowest at 1.3%, followed by West Seattle and Fremont/Green Lake both at 1.6%.
Overall, Seattle’s positive-test rate remains quite low, at 2.6% from Oct. 3 to Oct. 17. In total, there were 533 positives in the city, out of about 20,500 administered. The city of Bellevue was a little higher, at 3.3%. There were 84 positives out of more than 2,500 tested.
Ninety-seven people were hospitalized in King County due to COVID-19 in the two-week period, and, sadly, 20 people died. Four King County cities each lost three residents to the virus: Auburn, Federal Way, Kent and Seattle.