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‘Impacting all races and ethnicities’ — Early King County COVID-19 demographics an incomplete picture

King County has released preliminary data that its officials say shows COVID-19 is “impacting all races and ethnicities” here but experts caution those early results aren’t likely to hold up. Meanwhile, critics say officials must do more to track demographic trends.

The county’s early report on the numbers shows local statistics on the outbreak closely mirror the region’s demographics:

Of the 274 people who have died after contracting COVID-19 in King County, 74% were White non-Hispanic, 15% Asian, 4% Black, 5% Hispanic or Latino, 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0% American Indian or Alaskan Native. (Data as of 4/10/20)

The county acknowledges its current dataset doesn’t tell the complete story.

“The outbreak is still in a relatively early stage, and testing has not been widespread throughout the community,” the report reads. “For these reasons, the available data likely does not provide the full picture of COVID-19 impacts across King County’s population.”

Dr. Jared Baeten, vice dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, explained to Crosscut what we’ll likely see next as reporting improves:

People of color, who work in low-wage jobs at a disproportionate rate, are more likely to contract coronavirus because of the kind of work they are doing, which requires them to be public and not at home on their computers. And people who work in low-wage jobs without good — or any — insurance are more likely to wait before seeking treatment and that makes them more likely to die from COVID-19, Baeten said.

Meanwhile, critics are calling on the state to join King County in producing useful demographic reporting on the crisis.

King County officials say they have demographic information on about 51% of positive COVID-19 cases. The process of collecting the data varies by lab, the county says, often requiring local officials to gather the information in interviews. The Washington State Board of Health is currently reviewing the reporting requirements “for all notifiable conditions–providing an opportunity to require reporting of race/ethnicity data statewide,” the county announcement says. “King County strongly supports this change.”

The county’s reporting by ZIP Code location, age, and gender, meanwhile is available on its COVID-19 dashboard.

Through Saturday night, King County has now recorded 292 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 4,000 positive cases. The ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill and much of the CD have reported 162 positive cases and five deaths.

There is also another change coming for the county’s reporting. Public Health announced it will shift to releasing updates on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule after weeks of daily updates.

Research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggest Washington and King County have moved through the peak of the initial outbreak. Experts and officials caution that distancing restrictions must remain in place to continue the slowdown of the virus.

CHS COVID-19

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Come on right now
Come on right now
7 months ago

Interesting to see how you get to real data on this that isn’t politically/agenda driven.

Certainly people of color may have jobs that put them at risk.

And certainly people of color have other underlying challenges. Black people, for instance, have higher rates of hypertension, asthma, diabetes, etc. which are conditions that put you at higher risk for the ‘rona.

louise
louise
7 months ago

The numbers seem to be lining up with the demographics of the county.

D Del Rio
D Del Rio
7 months ago
Reply to  louise

Actually the demographics of King County is 64.8% non-Hispanic white, so white people are dying at a higher rate than their population. This is actually from the 2010census, so the % of whites in King County is actually less according to US census estimates from 2018.