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Updates on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the Northwest

This post will be updated with information about the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state. Scroll down for older information.

As of Thursday, November 5, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 2,431 Covid-19 related deaths; 112,550 confirmed cases (2.2% death rate among positive cases).
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.


King, Snohomish, Pierce are hot zones for Covid transmission

5 p.m. — Limit in-person gatherings, even small ones, the Washington State Department of Health is urging, as Covid spread intensifies across Washington state.

Saturday marked a high mark for number of diagnosed cases announced in Washington state: 1,777 in one day.

Western Washington – King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties in particular – are hot zones for transmission of the disease.

“These numbers reflect an overall surge that started in mid-September and are very troubling as we head into darker, colder months, the holidays and respiratory virus season,” the health department said.

The fall surge has erased progress made this summer, the department release continued.

—Isolde Raftery


Risk of getting Covid-19 higher than ever

6 p.m. — The risk of acquiring Covid-19 is higher now than it has ever been in the Seattle area and the United States overall.

New cases have been rising sharply in King County for two weeks and have been repeatedly breaking records for the past nine days.

King County health officer Jeff Duchin said new cases are broadly distributed but that the highest rates of positive Covid tests are in the county’s south and southeast; among young and working-age adults; and in communities of color.

To address the outbreak in south King County, officials announced free Covid-19 testing sites in Auburn, Federal Way, Renton and Tukwila.

Duchin said, with cases rising fast, we can choose our path forward or let the virus choose it for us.

“Cases continue to accelerate in the wrong direction,” he said. “It’s best to hit the brakes before we crash and not after.”

Similar spikes have been spotted in neighboring counties.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported a record 1,518 confirmed cases in the past 14 days.

Nationwide, the Covid Tracking Project reported a one-day record high of 125,552 new cases on Friday.

Health officials say Puget Sound-area hospitals have adequate capacity for now but could be overwhelmed—as Idaho and other states are now experiencing—if more people don’t practice social distancing and the other safety measures officials have been urging for months.

“We need to do better in limiting the number of activities outside the home, the number and duration of contacts with others and avoiding crowded indoor settings," Duchin said.

“We don’t have to follow the pathway to pain that so many communities are experiencing,” he said.

John Ryan

Vaccine program underway in Washington state

9 a.m. — The Washington state Department of Health opened enrollment for its Covid-19 vaccination program on Monday. The state is working to identify facilities to enroll for the first phase of vaccine administration.

It is taking a phased approach, focusing first on hospitals and health care systems, according to a press release, and will branch out to additional sites in the following weeks.

—Isolde Raftery

WA to find cold storage for vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Washington state to identify sites where Covid vaccines could be stored and deployed from, in case they are approved. Washington state will share the locations with the CDC. These spots will likely be hospitals with ultra-cold storage.

—Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now in Washington state

  • All age groups are now contracting Covid-19 in Washington state. This matters because a Covid patient’s age is the strongest predictor of whether they will be hospitalized and die.

Health Officer Kathy Lofy says that’s concerning because the case spikes we’re seeing now are more likely to result in hospitalizations and deaths compared to this summer.

  • Rising cases in Snohomish and Pierce county are of particular concern to the state. King County cases are not rising as much, but still concerning.
  • Officials are warning about social gatherings, because the small gatherings are driving increasing cases.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff says that having a different president would make an enormous difference in fighting the pandemic locally, and would increase public trust in vaccine and reduce misinformation. He referred to misinformation and coronavirus as the “twin viruses.”

—Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Schools can prevent most Covid outbreaks without routine testing, study finds

8 a.m. — Schools can prevent Covid outbreaks without routinely testing attendees — that's if they take enough other precautions and community transmission is low, according to new report from the Institute for Disease Modeling.

Keep reading...

—Ann Dornfeld


Covid-19 rate of infection rises throughout western Washington

Snohomish County sees a spike in fall Covid-19 cases

7:55 p.m. — In Snohomish county, rates of Covid-19 in the county are now triple what they were in September.

That’s a steeper rise than other counties in the Puget Sound Region. Now, Snohomish County health officials are hopeful that cases may be starting to level off.

"We’ve really got to all put our hearts into following the common sense guidelines to try to reduce transmission because otherwise things can and will keep going up," said Dr. Chris Spitters, the Snohomish County health officer.

On Sunday the county saw its highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 141 cases reported that day.

Paige Browning

9 a.m. — The state health department reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing the total infection number since March to more than 109,000.

In King County, the rate of infection has risen to 122 per 100,000.

In Snohomish County, the rate is 126 per 100,000.

In Pierce County, the rate is 142 per 100,000.

Health officials want the rate of infection to be below 25 per 100,000.

Angela King

Sea-Tac Airport's new Covid-19 testing program

8 a.m. -- Sea-Tac Airport is getting ready to unveil its new Covid-19 onsite testing pilot program.

It will be open to ticketed passengers starting Wednesday morning and will run through January 31.

The Port of Seattle is teaming up with Discovery Health MD for this program. The testing site will be located in the central auditorium that is located above security checkpoint 3 on the mezzanine level to the south.

-- Angela King

Outbreak at work release facility

7 a.m. -- The state Department of Corrections says more than half the residents of a Seattle work-release facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Seattle Times reports 28 out of the 49 residents at Bishop Lewis Work Release have tested positive as of October 28.

Those infected have been moved to housing designated for quarantine.

-- Angela King


New study shows Seattle-area arts groups still largely closed for business

7 a.m. -- After the pandemic hit last March, almost 5,000 artists and cultural workers immediately lost their jobs.

A new survey done in October found that only about 9% of those workers have been re-hired.

And many came back to part-time jobs, sometimes at reduced salaries.

The Seattle-based advocacy group Arts Fund surveyed 47 cultural and arts groups. Some have partially reopened, but more than 70% are still closed. Most don’t expect to resume business as usual until mid to late 2021.

Aside from permanent closure, their biggest fear is that skilled workers will pivot outside the arts, or leave the area before that can happen.

-- Marcie Sillman


Schools reconsider plans as Covid-19 cases grow

9 a.m. -- Health officials in Thurston County are now recommending schools there hold off on expanding in-person learning until at least November 6 because of increasing Covid-19 cases.

They also said if transmission rates remain high, they'll recommend a return to distance-learning for all students, except for some students with the highest needs.

The state health department says its recorded 36 outbreaks in Washington schools since the pandemic started -- 26 outbreaks since September 1.

An outbreak is called when at least two staff members or students test positive within two weeks. Nearly all of the outbreaks had fewer than five cases.

Washington State Coronavirus Response Joint Information Center says universal masking could cut the number of daily deaths in half.

-- Angela King

King County employees will continue to work from home until July 2021

8 a.m. -- Hundreds of King County employees will now be working from home until at least July 5, 2021.

King County Executive Dow Constantine extended the mandatory work-from-home order Thursday because the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow.

Constantine recently wrote to employees: "By limiting the number of people in our facilities and on our roads and transit system, we can keep our worksites safer for those employees delivering in-person services."

Over the past two weeks, King County has reported 104 cases per every 100,000 people. Officials want that number under 25 per 100,000.

In Snohomish County, the rate is 122 per 100,000. And in Pierce County, it's 137 per 100,000.

The state health department says that the virus is currently spreading faster in western Washington than it is in eastern Washington, with it mostly infecting those in the 25-39 and 40-59 year old age groups.

-- Angela King

Read previous updates here.

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