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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