Updated data on COVID-19 outbreak settings is now available on Public Health’s COVID-19 webpage. It provides a snapshot of the number of outbreaks that Public Health has identified across various settings such as worksites, long term care facilities and schools.
The data shows that since the start of the pandemic, Public Health has identified more than 1,000 outbreaks across the county.
In addition, a table shows the number of outbreaks for each month and the average number of COVID-19 cases per setting.
Previously, Public Health published a summary report with outbreak summary information. This dashboard will now provide that data on an ongoing basis.
Public Health investigates outbreaks of COVID-19 in order to understand and describe the impact of the infection in King County and to inform disease prevention and control measures.
It’s important to note that the outbreaks we become aware of and that are reflected in our data do not represent the entire picture of outbreaks in our community. While hospitals and restaurants are required to notify Public Health of outbreaks, we rely on businesses, schools and other organizations to voluntarily let us know when they suspect two or more cases.
On average, overall, nine cases were identified per outbreak (defined as two or more cases within 14 days among people in a common setting). During an outbreak investigation, Public Health works with the organization to identify people who may have been exposed and connect them to testing. Because people can be exposed to the virus at multiple locations, Public Health can’t always make a definite determination of where the transmission occurred.
In the past two months, the largest numbers of identified outbreaks have occurred in:
- Long term care facilities (92 outbreaks in Nov. and Dec. 2020; average of 14 cases per outbreak from Feb. to present)
- Manufacturing (55 outbreaks in Nov. and Dec. 2020; average of 9 cases per outbreak from Feb. to present)
- Childcare centers (48 outbreaks in Nov. and Dec 2020; average of 5 cases per outbreak from Feb. to present)
Healthcare Setting Data
Healthcare settings – such as long term care facilities, hospitals and out-patient healthcare clinics have unique infection prevention considerations. Additional data on outbreaks in healthcare settings is now available on the website and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
With high levels of COVID-19 in the community, there is a greater risk of COVID-19 being brought into worksites including hospitals or other healthcare settings. Public Health has seen an increase in outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring in hospital settings in recent weeks; the vast majority of cases associated with these outbreaks are linked to healthcare workers. We are aware of outbreaks in which healthcare workers have acquired COVID-19 in the community, including reports of possible exposure at social gatherings, out-of-state travel and carpooling with co-workers. With increased level of COVID-19 circulating in the community, more healthcare workers have been exposed to the virus.
It is difficult to identify the specific way that transmission between one healthcare worker and another healthcare worker takes place. But based on disease investigation work, one potential avenue for transmission to occur is in breakrooms where staff interact during meals and breaks, and when they would be less likely to be wearing masks and eye protection.
Suspected infections from patients to healthcare workers have been rare. In the cases where they were suspected, it was primarily where patients tested negative upon hospital arrival but may have been in the early stages of infection, before the virus was detectable. There have also been rare instances of a visitor exposing a patient in the middle of their hospital stay which went unrecognized until after staff had already been exposed.
At a time when healthcare workers have been at the frontlines of caring for our community so long, these outbreaks are an important reminder for all of us to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention practices, even as vaccine begins to roll out. By reducing the amount of COVID-19 spread in our community, we reduce the risk and make it safer for all employees working to provide critical services to our community.
Originally posted January 14, 2021