Every area in King County saw positive coronavirus tests surge in mid-November, new public-health data shows. And in many of those areas, infections hit an all-time high.
The data is reported for the 48 Health Reporting Areas (HRA) in King County, which are defined by Public Health – Seattle & King County. In nearly half of these HRAs — 22 of them, to be exact — the positive-test rates for the coronavirus were at record highs in mid-November, exceeding the rates from the early days of the pandemic in February and March. (The test data is based on the HRAs where people live, not on where the test was administered.)
From Nov. 7 through 21, the most recent and accurate data available, more than 61,000 King County residents were tested for the virus, and 8,900 came back positive — a rate of 14.5%.
When I last looked at this data, which was for the period from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3, the county’s positive-test rate was 7.2%, so it’s doubled in this short span of time. The number of people tested also shot up by more than 10,000 in mid-November.
The higher numbers we’re seeing now are driving an increase in hospitalizations. In my previous column, I reported that 126 people in the county had been hospitalized due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. The new data shows 351 hospitalizations across all 48 HRAs.
Needless to say, we are currently nowhere near the state’s goal, which is a rate of 2% positive tests over a two-week period. A higher positivity rate is one sign that transmission of the virus is accelerating. It also means that it’s more likely you’ll encounter someone who is infected with the virus if you go out in your neighborhood.
In my previous column, the highest rate of positive tests in King County was about 18%, which was in the SeaTac/Tukwila HRA. In the new data, there are 14 HRAs where the rate exceeded 20%. All but one of them are in South King County, which has had the county’s highest positive-test rates since the early days of the pandemic.
The one exception is the Beacon Hill/Georgetown/South Park HRA, which lies mostly in the city of Seattle. Its positive-test rate in the mid-November period was slightly over 20%, making it the first Seattle area to hit that threshold. In my previous column, this HRA had a positive-test rate a little below 8%.
Other areas in the city with high rates in the new data include the Southeast Seattle (17%), Delridge (16%) and Northwest Seattle (12%) HRAs.
Citywide, Seattle crossed the 10% positive-test mark in mid-November. This is the first time since the pandemic began that the city has been in the double digits. About 22,000 people were tested in Seattle from Nov. 7-21, and more than 2,200 were positive for coronavirus.
Bellevue is also in the double digits, at nearly 11%. But unlike Seattle, Bellevue had higher positive-test rates back in February and March. Nearly 3,200 people were tested in King County’s second-largest city in mid-November, and 339 were positive.
But the worst numbers remain in South King County. In the new data, the North Highline HRA had the highest positive-test rate, at about 28%. Of the 610 people tested there in the Nov. 7-21 period, 173 were positive for the virus. The South Auburn and SeaTac/Tukwila HRAs had rates just slightly lower.
Most of the biggest increases since I last looked at these numbers were also in South King County. In seven South King County HRAs, the positive-test rate increased by at least 10 percentage points since the Oct. 20-Nov. 3 period.
There were two other HRAs with similarly large increases: Beacon Hill/Georgetown/South Park and Shoreline. The new data shows Shoreline’s positive-test rate was 16% in mid-November.
The lowest rates of positive tests are still in some parts of Seattle and Vashon Island, but they are nowhere near as low as they were just a few weeks back.
The Ballard HRA in North Seattle had the lowest rate in mid-November, but at 6%, it was more than double what it had been the last time I checked this data. There were nearly 1,850 people tested in this HRA, and 114 were positive for the virus.
The other lowest HRAs are Northeast Seattle, Capitol Hill/Eastlake and Vashon Island, which were all a little below 7% for positive tests in mid-November.
Sadly, the number of deaths from COVID-19-related causes also increased. Across all 48 HRAs, 30 people died in mid-November, up from 23 in the Oct. 20-Nov. 3 period.
The HRA hit hardest was Central Seattle. Three of its residents were reported to have died from COVID-19-related causes in the new data.
Gov. Jay Inslee has issued more restrictions to limit social interactions, including the prohibition of all indoor gatherings with people outside of your household unless everyone involved has quarantined for 14 days or has quarantined for seven days and has tested negative. He’s also closed indoor dining at restaurants.