Report: Virus spreading in households, gatherings, worksites

SEATTLE (AP) — A new report shows people infected with the coronavirus in Washington state’s most populous county in recent weeks have been mostly exposed in homes, during social activities and gatherings, and in workplaces.

Instead of a few “hotspots,” the report shows the risk of exposure is now widespread throughout King County as cases have increased in the past two months.

Public Health — Seattle & King County released the report on outbreaks and exposure settings Wednesday showing where people most frequently reported being exposed.

County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said case numbers in King County are now triple what they were in October and it’s fair to assume exposure can happen anywhere people are around other people, especially indoors.

“We should expect COVID to be introduced everywhere we go,” Duchin said during a media briefing.

When people were asked where they had been outside their household during the two weeks before testing positive, social and community activities and gatherings topped the list, according to the report. Over the past 60 days, 39% of people with the disease said they had spent time in community or social settings such as get-togethers with friends or family, Halloween parties, restaurants or places of worship.

Cases related to those activities and out-of-state travel have increased over the course of the pandemic while cases associated with long-term care and other health care facilities have decreased in the county, according to the report.

The report also noted differences in potential sources of exposure by race and ethnicity, geography and age. In many communities of color, for example, particularly in south King County, workplaces are more frequently reported as possible exposure sites, the report said, whereas in the north Seattle and suburban Shoreline area, the most common exposure settings are social gatherings.

“We know that the pandemic has hit Black, Indigenous people and people of color hard,” Matias Valenzuela. equity director at Public Health – Seattle & King County said at the news conference. “How we live and work as well as who has access to resources and wealth are major factors, not just for COVID-19 but health and wellbeing overall. Not everybody has the same options to limit their exposure.”

When people limit their possible social exposure, they’re supporting essential workers and others who may not have a choice, county health officials said.