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Zero: King County reports a day with no new COVID-19 deaths

The county's report for new cases and deaths for Wednesday, May 13th

The county’s report for new cases and deaths for Wednesday, May 13th

King County and Seattle Public Health reported an unusual number in its latest daily update on new COVID-19 cases and deaths: zero.

For the first time since the onset of the outbreak, the county did not record an official COVID-19 related death in its tally Wednesday leaving the death total at 514.

While a day without another death from the virus is undoubtedly good news, the trend of new cases remains on a stubbornly slow downward course. Wednesday’s tally brought 86 new cases in King County — just short of the daily average reported so far in May but also the highest tally recorded in a week.

Is it true that nobody died from coronavirus in King County on Wednesday? Maybe. The reporting system has been corrected from time to time with cases removed or added. King County is also not counting more than 300 positive cases identified through antibody testing after a decision in early May due to concern about “the validity of results” from serological procedures.

In King County, determination of what deaths are attributed to COVID-19 in the publicly available reporting hinges on the decision of a physician if the person died of natural causes, or “a coroner/medical examiner if injury or poison was involved in the death,” a Public Health spokesperson told CHS in April.

“For any King County resident whose death certificate includes COVID-19 as either a primary or contributing cause of death, we would count toward our overall COVID death count,” the spokesperson said.

At the state level, Washington has reached 983 deaths — below some of the earlier forecasts but still a staggering total. The state was also working with UW Medicine to study total mortality in Washington to look for “excess deaths” that could be another measure of the outbreak’s impact.

The state is also tracking the portion of Washington cases reported at long term care facilities including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or adult family homes. 19% of total cases and 61% of total deaths — 587 people — “have been identified as associated with a long term care facility,” according to the latest report.

The day of “zero deaths” in King County comes as state and local officials have changed course and say resources are finally in place for wider scale testing. Meanwhile, Monday will bring new guidelines requiring face masks in Seattle and King County in “indoor public spaces or confined spaces.”

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7 thoughts on “Zero: King County reports a day with no new COVID-19 deaths

  1. I’m not discouraged that the case rate has been stubbornly sticky.

    We seem to be doing more tests, expanding beyond those that are critically ill, in a vulnerable group, or that are frontline workers.

    We know are testing constraints missed many many cases. We should expect to find more cases as we do more tests. But as the numerator of positve cases has stayed roughly flat in raw numbers, the denominator of tests down has expanded.

    What I think is important to watch is the positivity rate – what percent come back positive out of tests we are doing? That seems to be going down.

    Another thing I wish was more clear from our data is where the hospital capacity is? What is the daily new admission rate?

    Not to say we’re anywhere close to lightening up restrictions..but there’s more nuance than just looking at the raw number of cases being reported every day.

    To me it seems there has been (very) incremental progress.

  2. I think we need to push our leaders to find measures besides social distancing and mask-wearing in case this virus rebounds in the fall or another one occurs in a couple years. These have been fine as smart measures during a shocking time, but they are not feasible long-term. Of course, they’re damaging the economy, and many people I have talked to have mentioned that small children are acting out, showing that they’re traumatized by this. The traumatic effect on teens and young adults seems even more disturbing.

    I’ve felt surprised that in a city with Microsoft and Amazon (the latter raking in the money and surely having talent and resources to donate) that we’re not finding savvier methods of combatting contagious disease without giving up our natural need to gather, at least in smaller groups. It has occurred to me that a platform such as already has the means to enter data that connects people–it could be modified such that we could enter the clusters we’re grouping in and find out quickly if we have come into contact with anyone who tests positive. That’s just an idea. I feel sure that a dedicated crew from Amazon could develop technology that would honor our privacy while giving most of us, all who feel healthy, our lives back. And maybe the economy can rebound.

    I just hope people stop hiding and start thinking creatively.

      • Science is the study of uncertainty. What the smartest people in a field think at a given time may be less likely to be wrong than other consensuses, but by way less than you seem to think.

        Beyond that, the “best scientific minds” in the world are disproportionately not in public health. If you follow Pinker and others on Twitter and read between the lines, it’s pretty clear lots of smart people in other fields are skeptical about the current approach but don’t say anything because, one, it won’t do any good; two, it’s border crashing in a way that the scientific community identifies as bad form, especially given the current uncertainty about the basic brass tacks data.

  3. I’m frustrated. I see that statistics are characterized by age, gender and race but significant underlying issues are not. Why is that? I want to know how many of the deaths are strongly related to whatever the issue is. It might be smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes or the color of our eyes (likely not but you get the idea). I don’t know what the issue is but it seems to be an elephant in the room. Too often health officials dance around the issue or are too vague. Now is the time for hard facts. If there was ever a reason for public health officials to cite the risks of smoking or vaping or diet or green eyes or whatever the contributing factor is then this is the time to get the word out. What are you waiting for!

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