As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the novel coronavirus is hitting hard in more parts of King County. Some areas that have had low positive test rates for months are now spiking, including neighborhoods in Seattle.
Last week, I looked at the data for the two-week period from Oct. 3-17. The positive test rate for the county was 4.4%, already quite a bit higher than it had been over the summer.
But in the new data, which is for the Oct. 20-Nov. 3 period, King County’s rate hit 7.3%. Nearly 50,000 county residents were tested for the virus in this period, an increase of just 4% from the previous two-week period. But the number of positive tests — 3,580 — represents a 69% increase.
The data comes from Public Health — Seattle & King County. There is one more recent data release available, but it is subject to significant corrections. I used the Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 data to ensure that it is accurate.
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.
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 quarantined for seven days and has tested negative. He’s also closed indoor dining at restaurants.
The higher numbers we’re seeing now are driving an increase in hospitalizations. From Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, 126 people in the county were hospitalized due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, up from 97 in the first two weeks of October.
The highest positive test rates are in neighborhoods across South King County, which has been true for months. But even here, the numbers are spiking. The biggest jump was in SeaTac/Tukwila, where the positive-test rate hit 18.3%, up from 8.7% earlier in October. The new data shows 253 positive tests out of 1,380 administered.
The data is from the health department’s 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.
Of the 48 HRAs, 44 showed a higher positive test rate in the new data compared to the first two weeks of October. Previously, just three HRAs had a positive test rate of 10% or higher. In the new data, 14 do.
After SeaTac/Tukwila, the highest positive test rates were in the Federal Way/Central Military Road (16.8%) and North Highline (15.4%) HRAs in the new data. Nearly all of South King County exceeded a 10% positive test rate.
Some of the biggest spikes in positive test rates were in Seattle neighborhoods. The most dramatic increase was in the Delridge HRA, where the rate jumped from just 2.2% earlier in October to 9.7% in the new data.
And the Southeast Seattle HRA shot up from 4% to 10%, which is the highest rate of positive tests in the city. This also marks the first time that we’ve seen double-digit rates in any Seattle HRA since April.
The Downtown Seattle and West Seattle HRAs also had big jumps. West Seattle has had one of the lowest positive test rates, but in the new data, it shot up to 4.6%.
Citywide, Seattle’s positive test rate was 5% in the two-week period from Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, up from 2.6% earlier in October. There were 984 positive tests out of nearly 19,900 administered.
In Bellevue, the rate was 4.7%. There were 123 positive test out of about 2,600 administered. Bellevue’s rate was 3.3% earlier in October.
Vashon Island had the lowest positive test rate in the new data, at 1%. Redmond was second, at 2.2%. Both these areas had lower rates in the new data compared with earlier in October. The third lowest rate was in the Ballard HRA in Seattle, at 2.5%.
Some areas of Seattle that have had very low positive test rates are not quite so low in the new data, including: Queen Anne/Magnolia (3.6%), Central Seattle (3.8%), Northwest Seattle (4.1%), and Capitol Hill/Eastlake (4.5%).
The Federal Way/Central Military Road HRA had the greatest number of residents hospitalized, at 12.
Sadly, there were 23 King County residents who died from COVID-19-related causes in the two-week period, up from 20 in the earlier part of October. The cities of Auburn, Shoreline and Seattle each lost three people to the virus.