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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