King County’s positive-test rate for the novel coronavirus continued to climb in early December, while the number of hospitalizations and deaths surged.

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 12, , the most recent and accurate data available, roughly 55,300 county residents were tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, and more than 9,800 had a positive result. That pencils out to a positive-test rate of 17.8%, which is more than 3 percentage points higher than when I last reported on these numbers, using data from mid-November. The rate was 14.5% then.

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.

Perhaps more alarming was the increase in hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 in early December. In the new data, a total of 443 people were hospitalized in the county, up from 351 in the Nov. 7 through 21 period. And sadly, deaths more than tripled from that time, increasing from 30 to 102 in the new two-week data.

Let’s hope that this period in early December represents a peak of the virus. And preliminary county data does in fact show a significant drop in the number of positive tests as well as the number of tests administered in late December. The average number of deaths per day hasn’t declined, though.

The data is reported for the 48 Health Reporting Areas (HRA) in King County, which are defined by Public Health – Seattle & King County. In all but five of these HRAs, the positive-test rates for the coronavirus were higher than they were in mid-November. (The test data is based on the HRAs where people live, not on where the test was administered.)

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As we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, the highest rates of positive tests have been in South King County. The highest positive-test rate in early December was in the South Auburn HRA, at 35%. Of the nearly 1,100 people tested for the virus in this area, 372 were positive.

This marks the first time since March that an HRA has had a rate higher than 30% for the two-week period. One other area — Kent Southeast — was also slightly higher than 30%. The Auburn North HRA was just a bit lower, at 29%.

South Auburn also had one of the biggest increases in positive-test rates since mid-November, at nearly 8 percentage points higher. Two HRAs on the Eastside had similar jumps in their positivity rates: Bothell/Woodinville and Issaquah. The Bothell/Woodinville HRA had a positive-test rate of 18% in this two-week period, the highest of any area on the Eastside. Issaquah and Bellevue Central were just a little lower, both at around 17%.

Within the city of Seattle, the highest positive-test rate was in the Southeast Seattle HRA, at 21%. But the North Seattle HRA had the biggest increase since mid-November, shooting up 6 percentage points to 16%.

Citywide, there were about 19,100 people tested for the coronavirus in the two-week period from Nov. 28 to Dec. 12, and more than 2,500 were positive — that’s a 13% positivity rate. Just a few months back, the city was doing great, with rates below 2% for several periods.

Bellevue’s citywide rate was close to Seattle’s in early December, at 12.5%. There were about 3,100 people tested, and nearly 400 were positive.

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The lowest positivity rate for this period was in the Vashon Island HRA, which has always ranked among the lowest. Even so, at 7.5%, it’s much higher than it’s been in recent months. For much of the summer, Vashon Island’s rate was below 1%.

The other HRAs with the lowest rates were Mercer Island/Point Cities (7.7%) and Fremont/Green Lake (8%). Only six of King County’s 48 HRAs had a positivity rate below 10%.

In the Kent Southeast HRA, 29 residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the two-week period, the most of any area. The Downtown Seattle HRA had 24 residents hospitalized, and Federal Way/Central Military Road had 21.

Sadly, nine people who lived in the Southeast Seattle HRA died due to complications from COVID-19 in early December. That was the most number of deaths in any area. The Kent Southeast and Federal Way/Central Military Road HRAs each lost seven residents to the virus.