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COVID-19 outbreak reported at First Hill’s Harborview

First Hill’s Harborview Medical Center is working to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed one patient and sickened three others. Ten staff members have also tested positive for the virus and 30 are quarantining after possible exposure, the hospital says.

The Seattle Times reported details Friday of the outbreak in an undisclosed surgical unit including the patient’s October 8th death:

Three patients who contracted the virus had been at Harborview for more than 14 days, which indicates they likely caught it at the hospital. Harborview is working to determine how the virus got into the surgical unit, Lynch said. The surgical unit, which serves patients coming into and out of surgery after trauma, isn’t accepting new patients. Susan Gregg, a Harborview spokesperson, said the hospital would not disclose the specific name of the unit out of concern for patient privacy, but she said the outbreak is contained to that one unit.

King County’s Harborview, the region’s largest trauma and burn center, had thus far avoided any reported major COVID-19 problems even as medical facilities across the state including hospitals, clinics, and senior living facilities have struggled with more than 300 outbreaks since the start of the pandemic earlier this year. The Washington Department of Health considers it an outbreak when two or more individuals test positive in a related setting and there are at least two cases with symptoms within two weeks of each other.

There is no publicly available record at this time of official outbreaks at First Hill’s numerous medical facilities. Harborview Hall’s homeless shelter, meanwhile, suffered a concerning spike in cases this summer. The county also hosted an “isolation and recovery center” there for under sheltered patients.

The Harborview outbreak joins a surge in cases around the University of Washington’s fraternity and sorority housing in pushing Seattle and King County infection numbers higher as fall begins. Nearly 250 of the some 2,000 students living on Greek Row have recently tested positive for the virus.

The outbreaks come as Seattle and King County are beginning to move past the phase process used to provide a framework of restrictions during the summer to help slow the spread of COVID-19 to a more surgical approach to reopenings that has made monitoring current infection and positivity rate metrics tantamount to checking weather reports and advisories. Do the kids have a soccer game Saturday? Only if the total number of cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks is 75 or below.

In recent daily reports, King County has been recording around 150 to 175 new positive cases per day and deaths continue at a pace of around three to five people passing away from COVID-19 complications every day. So far, just under 25,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in King County since March and nearly 2,500 have been hospitalized. 782 have died including 10 across the 98102, 98112, and 98122 ZIP Codes.

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Nicole Myers
Nicole Myers
6 months ago

I wish these numbers would include the percentage of new cases for which the source was known. I saw that in DC, up to 95% of cases were unattributed recently (people were not involved with the contact tracing process prior to testing positive). I wonder how we’re doing.

If there’s a large number, I might be afraid of fomites, running outside maskless, petting dogs, spending distanced time indoors, and getting take out – if the percentage is small, hopefully it means that we have things under control and have figured out what the risky activities are.