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With Seattle and King County cases on rise again, officials say not enough people isolating at first signs of illness

(Image: Washington State Department of Health’s latest statewide situation report)

Coronavirus cases are surging across the nation. In Seattle and King County, even as restrictions are loosened after months of “stay home” lockdown, officials say there is also an increase in people becoming sick and new challenges on “progress to zero” initiatives to stamp out spread of the virus.

Positive cases reported by Public Health are up around 50% compared to the start of June. Yes, testing has also surged with Seattle and King County residents seeking tests at rates of around 2,000 to 3,000 per day. The most recent positive rate — the percentage of those who turn up positive with the virus out of those who have been tested — has been coming in at over 6% this week, a step back to the state of things a month or more ago. In the ZIP codes, covering Capitol Hill and the Central District, the increase has so far been less severe — positive cases are up around 12% in an area of the city where people have been seeking tests at higher than typical rates.

“Recent cases are from all areas of the county, with the largest increase in new cases in young adults and Seattle residents,” the county bulletin on the increase reads. “At this point, no specific venue or risk factor has been identified as a cause of the increase.”

Earlier this month, officials said there appeared to be no spike in infections due to Seattle’s massive crowds and protest activities in June as King County shifted to a second phase of lifting social distancing and business restrictions.

A major factor in King County’s recent increase, officials say from data collected during contact tracing efforts, is people becoming sick and not immediately isolating:

Health officials say the tracers are finding most people are waiting too long to go into isolation, saying only 21% of the people they contacted went into isolation on the day they first developed symptoms. More than half are waiting until they get tested. On average, there’s a 3-day gap between the time symptoms develop and when a person gets tested.

Here is the county’s overview of COVID-19 symptoms:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. This list is not all possible symptoms. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Face masks continue to be an important factor in staying healthy. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is principally spread by droplets that you exhale when you are normally breathing, as well as when you talking, singing, coughing or sneezing,” the Washington State Department of Health writes in a “science of masks” update. “These droplets can float in the air and infect people who are near you.”

Earlier this month, Seattle announced a new free testing initiative that has added two mobile clinics — one to the north off Aurora and one in SoDo — as well as expanded recommendations for who should seek a test that includes anyone feeling even mild symptoms or who has had even a brief exposure to someone who is sick or tested positive.

Worries about the continued spread of the virus led state officials to order Washington-wide mask mandates that started Friday.

Here is the Washington State Department of Health’s latest statewide situation report (PDF) documenting COVID-19 increase in both Western and Eastern Washington.

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29 thoughts on “With Seattle and King County cases on rise again, officials say not enough people isolating at first signs of illness

  1. Gee, I remember back when this all started in March and some of the loudest recurring voices in the CHS comment section were SOOOO sure things were overblown and everyone should just go back to work because everything is fine!

    Well, you were completely wrong. What do you have to say for yourselves?

    • Wish this was only limited to March – Powell Barnett was packed yesterday. Next weekend is going to be an absolute shitshow. Enjoy your liberty-at-any-cost America, hope you don’t die alone choking on a plastic tube.

    • If you look at the CDC’s latest IFR numbers it’s twice as deadly as the normal flu. This isn’t fake news, this isn’t lies, this is pure fact. I personally stopped caring how many cases there are. How many cases of the cold are there every year? Why aren’t you freaking out about how many people are infected with a cold? You could put some scary graphs up showing cold infections. But that graph doesn’t mean anything, it’s how deadly the thing is that means something.

      There’s been ~1200 deaths (less if you remove all the non-covid deaths reported as covid deaths) in all of WA in the last three months. Yeah it’s shitty, but people die from lots of things. More than 400 people a month die from a lot of other things that we don’t destroy our country and economy over.

      • Not to mention that something north of 70% of those dying from covid-19 are residents of assisted living facilities.

        Not to say the virus isn’t dangerous, but people need to work and businesses need to open, with precautions as necessary.

      • “It’s the characteristic Catch-22 of public health. What you did worked if people say you overreacted… you stopped that critical situation from happening, but it’s so hard to communicate that and for people to internalize it.”

        — Emily Toth Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health

    • There is not enough Anti- Venom for Poisonous Snakes in the Pipes of the USA. There is Paralysis, necrosis then death in 30 minutes. There are no working diplomatic relations in Snakes on plane US of A. Some worship snakes but still a leading cause of being done in.

      • In the USA, Snake bites kill several people per year on average. Coronavirus has killed 125,000 in a few months. Oh, and snake bites aren’t contagious. What’s the point? Maybe I’m missing your sarcasm.

  2. In March even some very left thinking people I knew said this was just a flu and wondered what all the fuss was about. Anything that is going around the globe that has no cure and can damage your lungs or have you drowning regardless of a ventilator is no joke. The 1918 pandemic lasted a couple of years. This will all pass (until the next virus) but we need to be sensible.

    • It’s disingenuous to suggest that “left thinking people” were the ones downplaying any part of this pandemic. Maybe anecdotally you know an example, but we ALL know conservative views and science denial correlate, Paul. You can’t blame the left for everything man, take charge of your fuck ups.

      • Paul explicitly said, “…EVEN some very left thinking people I KNEW…” He’s not suggesting that “left thinking people” as a whole were downplaying this in March or that they are to “blame”; in addition, he is clearly indicating that this is an anecdote on his part. His point is that at the beginning of this mess (in March or thereabouts), there wasn’t a clear consensus on how worried we should be. And he’s right (at least, from my personal experiences). Everyone I talked to had differing opinions, and it had nothing to do with their political philosophies.

  3. Every night when I’m walking my dog I see people congregating in “Dog piss park” (Thomas St Park). People mostly half dressed. They don’t seem to care as they gather for bbq, drinks and joints. No masks to be seen oh well what can we do they clearly don’t give a shit about themselves or others!

    • Yes, it is discouraging that many people wait so long to isolate. The symptoms of coronavirus infection have been widely publicized since the beginning (and less common symptoms too once they become known), so there is no excuse for not isolating asap. Most people are responsible, but there are far too many who are selfishly putting others at risk.

      As for the effectiveness of masks, it’s not really controversial, in spite of the comments here. Perhaps there is a tiny bit of doubt, but why not err on the side of caution?

  4. The problem is, so many of those early symptoms could be something else; “congestion or runny nose” could just be allergies, for example. So people get these symptoms but don’t isolate right away because it’s not serious enough yet.

  5. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on transit with drivers not even wearing a mask. I find it ironic to say the least and ridiculous the city doesn’t ensure their own staff are wearing them. I can’t help but wonder how this will all evolve and what the truths of hindsight will show us.

    • The city doesn’t hire operators, Metro KC does. With the front taped off, they have a pretty safe distance, but if they’re asking riders to wear them, they should at least make a gesture.

  6. Interestingly deaths and ed hospital visits for covid like symptoms continue on steady downward trend in Florida even though positives have jumped tremendously. This is standard trend across most of the nation.

    Covids ifr is constantly being lowered as more data comes in. Do you remember when it was 3.4? Or when it was 2? Now 0.27. That is with the assumption that 35% cases are asymptomatic. This is a really important assumption. Because if it is higher then 35% the ifr would drop significantly.
    As we begin to test more young people, the assumption might not hold up…considering that when they tested the Theodore roosevelt crew 60% were asymptomatic. Or
    The case of trousdale Turner prison where only 2 out of 1349 positive cases exhibited symptoms. Bmj posted a analysis too that estimates 80%.

    Of course when you only test old people with underlying health conditions (95% of deaths in Italy were 80+ and had at least one serious preexisting condition) that makes things seem a lot worse.

    What I really want to know is why ,towards the end of may, did they ( cdc ) decide to lump antibody tests into the tests conducted dataset…and why aren’t any questions about how this will taint the data being raised or reported on. Some states have begun doing this now such as texas and Florida but its really hard to find a definitive list of which states are and aren’t.

    • You are right, sad face. Nationwide, a huge portion of deaths were in nursing homes. I’m so fed up with Americans, right, left, all of them. It is possible to take an approach like Japan and manage outbreaks, but we can’t do that here because on one side you have right wing nut jobs who believe mask wearing is akin to slavery and are spitting in the faces of healthcare workers and other the other side you have left wing Karens who won’t stop until everyone stays inside of their homes for two to ten or who knows how many years for this virus to end. We can do hard things, fellow citizens. We can behave rationally and isolate outbreaks. We can wear masks and keep our physical distance while also allowing people to work and continue to survive financially (because not everyone works in tech or some other office job that can be handled from home). We can give our contact info for contact tracing to support outbreak management. We can isolate when we are sick and go out, carefully, when we aren’t. God, I hope we can do that but we Americans are not very good at nuance and elegance in our handling of anything so maybe we can’t.

  7. Looking at today’s COVID epidemiologic curves at WA DoH, we see COVID case numbers have plateaued or risen slightly but COVID hospitalizations are down and COVID deaths are down sharply. This suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is becoming less virulent as it adapts to its new human hosts. The panic around case numbers appears unwarranted.

    Science has not demonstrated the effectiveness of masks. A recent Lancet review was cited as a factor in Inslee’s recent mask order. Yet the Lancet itself states the following about the results of the review:

    “Face coverings and masks might protect against infection with COVID-19 although the certainty of the evidence is low for both forms of protection.”

    The certainty of the evidence for the effectiveness of masks against COVID infection is low, according to researchers. Not a strong endorsement of masks.

      • I’m not confusing anything. That is the Lancet I’m quoting. The same Lancet article cited by state Health Secretary John Wiesman as a factor in Inslee’s latest order mandating masks in public.

        According to our current scientific understanding, the certainty of evidence that masks are effective against COVID infection is low. Because the Lancet does not distinguish between masks protecting the wearer or others, we can assume it means a low certainty of evidence that masks protect either.

  8. the graphs shown (except maybe yakima) don’t seem to match the headline. there seems to be a huge spike in tests done, with a barely noticeable correlating spike in cases. If there was a second wave, we should see it in cases too, especially since we seem to be testing at unprecedented rates. What we see depicted in the charts above looks more like looks like we may have a second wave of hysteria, only.

    • I agree. Shen you follow the link to the DOH website you can see the “curve” is trending upwards in Snohomish and Pierce counties. However this “increase” looks like it could be a statistical varaition or the beginning of a real second wave. The headline should read something more like this.

      “Some counties see short term uptick in cases”

    • I feel like this is happening consistently because the public health folks really really don’t want people to relax, so they keep telling journalists cases are going up, then release data that doesn’t really show it.

  9. I walk on a track in a little park in Burien off 126th and 1st avenue. Out of over 14 people in the park yesterday only two of us wore masks. People are making each other sick.

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