King County Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise

SEATTLE, WA — Coronavirus activity continues to rise in King County, where increased case counts and transmission levels have left public health officials uneasy about the trajectory heading into the cold months.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for King County, hosted a news briefing Tuesday, outlining some concerning markers recorded across the county since Sept. 21.

“We expected it would be more challenging to manage COVID-19 during the fall and winter as we spend more time indoors and environmental conditions favor the spread of infection,” Duchin said. “The trends we’re seeing today should be a wake-up call for everyone. The longer we wait, the more difficult it gets to change the trajectory of an increasing outbreak. If we let it get away from us now, we may be in for a very dark time over the coming months.”

Washington’s most populous county has seen the highest number of positive cases in the state since the pandemic began. After two months of progress, that number is again trending in the wrong direction.

“Since the 21st of September, transmission and cases have been increasing in King County and regionally, as well as in many states across the country,” Duchin said. “Last week, we had over 1,000 cases reported in King County, and we’re having over 140 cases reported each day over the past week.”

The latest numbers are more than twice the trends seen in September. While record testing plays a role in the increase, Duchin said, the county’s testing positivity rate and the virus’s reproductive number have also grown, indicating increased transmission.

King County’s 14-day rate of cases has grown to 89 illnesses per 100,000 residents, a key indicator that places the county back in the highest bracket for transmission risk. In late September, that number had dropped to 50, landing the county in the low end of the moderate range.

Duchin said hospitalizations remain “relatively stable,” but have increased by one third. Increases have been recorded across all age groups, but particularly in young people and middle-aged adults. Over the last week, those ages 18-24 currently have seen the highest rate of infection, followed by people ages 25-34.

According to the county’s data, about 10 percent of cases in the last week were linked to an outbreak associated with the University of Washington’s Greek system. As of Tuesday, at least 242 students among 17 sororities and fraternities have tested positive since early September.

“As that tells us, this outbreak is large, but it is not responsible for all of the increase that we’re seeing in the county,” Duchin said.

Over the past two weeks, suspected exposures were “broadly distributed,” Duchin said, with 40 percent of cases acquired within the household, 30 percent from social events and other activities and 16 percent among essential workers.

The county’s rate of deaths continues to remain stable, with six to nine reported per week over the last month and mostly confined to patients over 80 years old. If community transmission becomes widespread,

L.A. County reports 971 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11: A couple in face masks walk down Cesar E. Chavez Blvd on Saturday morning in Los Angeles. Life around Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. and Soto St. has slow down as California officials extended stay-at-home orders into May and residents entered Easter weekend with unprecedented limits on their movements. Most of the people are adhering to the orders by mayor to wear masks while out running errands. Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A couple walk down Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials on Sunday reported 971 new coronavirus cases and three related deaths.

The number of new cases and deaths is usually lower on Sundays and Mondays because of laboratory reporting delays.

The county now has logged a total of 282,135 cases of the virus, and 6,771 people have died.

Officials continued to report encouraging signs of progress in the county’s fight against the virus.

There were 693 people with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in county hospitals as of Saturday, down from more than 2,200 at the peak of the crisis in mid-July.

L.A. County last week saw a slight uptick in the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day, on Wednesday reporting its highest daily count of infections since Aug. 22, but experts said it’s too early to say whether it represents the start of a larger surge in infections.

Even so, the percentage of tests that came back positive for the virus each day declined slightly over the course of the week, from a seven-day average of 3.2% Monday to 3% Sunday, officials said. The positivity rate, which helps officials determine whether more new cases are being identified because of increased transmission or because more people are being tested, has hovered around 3% for several weeks, officials said. In July, about 8% of tests were coming back positive.

The positivity rate is one of several metrics officials are keeping an eye on to gauge whether transmission of the virus is increasing and weigh whether more businesses should be allowed to reopen.

The state also recently created an equity metric that establishes specific positive case rate numbers that larger counties must meet in their poorer cities and neighborhoods.

L.A. County remains in the strictest tier of the state’s four-tier reopening system — Tier 1, or purple — because it continues to report more than 7 cases per 100,000 residents each day. That means that many nonessential businesses remain closed for indoor operations.

Officials have said they plan to proceed cautiously through the stages, directing business sectors to reopen slowly and in a staggered manner to avoid a surge in new infections that could threaten to overwhelm hospitals. Most recently, casino card rooms were permitted to resume outdoor operations Monday and indoor shopping malls were allowed to reopen at limited capacity Wednesday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Dozens infected, nine dead in COVID-19 outbreak at a Santa Cruz County nursing home

Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.
Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.

A skilled nursing home in Santa Cruz County is suffering a severe outbreak of COVID-19, with 61 people having tested positive and nine dead, a county health spokeswoman said Thursday.

Of the 61 infected at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, nine were staff. All those who died were residents and ranged in age from their early 70s to 90s, said Corinne Hyland, a public information officer for the county Department of Public Health. The facility is licensed for 95 beds.

Hyland said the facility had been following state guidelines for employee testing, which exposed the outbreak. The center reported the outbreak to the county on Sept. 17 after a resident tested positive. An outbreak at a nursing home is defined as an infection in one resident. Visitors have been barred during the pandemic, she said.

“It spread pretty quickly,” Hyland said. “Unfortunately, this is a very vulnerable population.”

Dr. David Ghilarducci, deputy health officer for Santa Cruz County, said the county’s public health staff was working closely with the facility to control the outbreak.

Santa Cruz County health officials have been visiting the facility daily to review protocols on isolation, quarantine, testing and screening, and to respond to requests for more resources.

Officials from the California Department of Public Health have made multiple visits to the facility to assess the situation and make recommendations, and the California National Guard also is providing help, the county said.

Because many nursing home employees work in more than one facility, the county immediately alerted other homes of the outbreak, Hyland said. She added that the county was tracing the contacts of the infected.

“This is really a large outbreak,” Hyland said. “We haven’t seen this sort of thing in our county until now.”

The Watsonville center’s website has reported previous infections in the past but in small numbers. The website indicates that past infections have been among employees.

Gerald E. Hunter, the facility’s administrator, said on the website there were 23 residents and four staff members who were positive for the virus on Oct. 5. He said the county’s numbers reflected the total infected since the outbreak started.

“Each day we evaluate all of our residents following CDPH and County of Santa Cruz guidelines to determine whom meets the criteria to be transferred out of the unit,” said Hunter on the website. He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Cuyahoga County Remains ‘Orange’ Amid Statewide Coronavirus Surge

AVON, OH — As COVID-19 numbers trend up in Ohio, Cuyahoga County is still classified as “orange” for relatively low spread of the virus locally.

The state uses a color-coded classification system to categorize the COVID-19 threat in every county. Orange is the second lowest ranking a county can have and means there is “increased exposure and spread” locally.

There are only 12 counties in Ohio classified as “yellow,” which is the lowest threat level a county can have for COVID-19 spread.

Cuyahoga County has averaged 50.3 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, significantly lower than Franklin and Hamilton counties.

While Cuyahoga County’s COVID-19 threat holds steady, other Ohio counties are seeing a renewed surge in cases, deaths and hospitalizations related to the virus. Gov. Mike DeWine said the state is now “trending in the wrong direction.”

“Our basic prevention measures hold as true today as they did at the beginning of the pandemic: Stay home when you are sick—even if you think you have allergies or a common cold. Wear a mask. Social distance. And quarantine when you are exposed,” the governor said.

DeWine urged Ohioans to cooperate with contact tracers and to continue using common sense to avoid dangerous situations.

“To live with the virus, we need to adjust our routines. That may mean reconsidering attending a crowded event or going to a party. And if you happen to get sick—please answer the phone when you get a call from a contact tracer,” DeWine said.

The state has seen an overall increase in positive COVID-19 tests.

“Right now Ohio’s positivity rate has jumped to 3.9% and the 7-day rolling average is 3.3%. This reflects the ongoing increasing trend of virus spread that we are seeing throughout the state. These numbers are not good,” DeWine said during a news conference on Thursday.

This article originally appeared on the Cleveland Patch

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New Public Health Orders Issued In Boulder County: What To Know

BOULDER COUNTY, CO — Two new public health orders were issued Wednesday in Boulder County after a drop in coronavirus cases.

One order limits gathering sizes for people ages 18 to 22 years old, and the other order provides guidance for collegiate group homes.

“We are so pleased that the number of new COVID-19 cases in this age group has dropped significantly,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director.

“Thank you to every single young adult in our community who has been following this order, on top of all of the other behavior changes we’ve asked of you. Your actions have made a difference!”

The county’s first order outlines four levels for gatherings for 18 to 22-year-olds:

  • No gatherings at all

  • Private gatherings of six people

  • Attendance at regulated events

  • Gathering sizes permitted under the state dial level for Boulder County

“The metrics that trigger changes in restrictions between levels are largely influenced by individual behaviors, so they create incentives for young adults,” Zayach said.

The levels are based on:

  • Testing goals

  • Cases per 100,000 among people ages 18 to 22

  • The positivity rate among college-age students

  • Number of CU students tested

  • Cooperation with contact tracing

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Movement to ease restrictions on gatherings will be based on a 14-day positivity rate and 14-day cases per 100,000; while movement to more restrictive levels will be based on a 5-day positivity rate and 5-day cases-per-100,000 metrics. Any movement between levels will be decided and announced by Boulder County Public Health, officials said.

“First, I want to thank our students who have been complying with local and state public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I know this has been difficult,” Philip DiStefano, University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor.

“We believe we have strong testing plans, and we know that individual behavior is the biggest determinant of success in the fight against the virus, so I encourage all our students, faculty and staff to keep up the good work as we transition back to in-person instruction by Oct. 14.”

The second public health order, which is effective immediately, addresses collegiate group homes on a list of identified properties. The homes must remain under stay-at-home orders until Oct. 12, or until they complete an isolation, quarantine and testing plan, which needs to be approved by Boulder County Public Health.

The agency provided the following summary of the new orders:

What’s the same?

  • Young adults (18-22 years old) in the City of Boulder:

    • Face Coverings must be worn per state and local requirements

    • Social distancing must be followed per state and local requirements

    • May gather with one other person, including shopping and exercising

    • May go to work

  • Properties under Stay at Home Orders must stay at home until October 12 or until they submit an infection control plan, whichever is later

  • CU students continue daily symptom monitoring and reporting of symptoms

What’s

Riverside County Coronavirus Spread Worsening, State Data Show

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Riverside County health officials reported Tuesday 129 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and six additional virus-related deaths, as the state reported that the county continues to see virus spread and is in danger of moving into a more restrictive tier that would force business closures.

Meanwhile the County Board of Supervisors debated Tuesday whether to flout California Department of Public Health restrictions, and a top state health official said that a vaccine to combat COVID-19 could be distributed as soon as late fall or early winter.

According to state metrics released Tuesday, the county’s coronavirus case and positivity rates increased. The case rate rose to 7.6 cases per 100,000 population from 6.7 last Tuesday. The positivity rate rose to 5.0 percent from 4.8 percent a week ago.

The county remains in the state’s “red tier,” which means virus spread is “substantial,” according to the state. However, the county is in danger of moving back into the “purple” or “widespread” tier due to its rising case rate. A rate of 7 (or higher) cases per 100,000 population is considered widespread per the state’s framework.

Under the red tier, many additional Riverside County businesses have been allowed to reopen, including in-restaurant dining, movie theaters, gyms and others. Schools are officially able to reopen effective Tuesday, although local district governing boards are still working to decide reopening dates.

On Tuesday the state also unveiled another metric to determine whether counties may move forward or backward in the tiered system. The new “health equity” metric looks at disadvantaged communities within counties to see if case and positivity rates are in line — or better or worse — than more affluent county areas.

The state is identifying the lowest 25 percentile of Riverside County communities using the California Healthy Places Index. Areas such as eastern Coachella Valley, as well as the cities and surrounding areas of Perris, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Banning fall into that percentile, while regions like Southwest Riverside County are in a higher percentile, according to California’s HPI.

Per county data, some of the communities hardest hit by coronavirus are in those areas identified as being in the lowest percentile.

On Tuesday, Riverside University Health System reported 60,867 COVID-19 cases, an uptick of 129 since Monday. The death toll stands at 1,244, six more than a day ago.

As the state unveiled the latest data and county figures were updated, the county Board of Supervisors continued hearing comments Tuesday from constituents weighing in on a proposal to flout the state’s tiered system.

Under a tentative plan introduced by Supervisor Jeff Hewitt on Sept. 22, the county would take a self-directed approach to restrictions on the private sector with a target of fully reopening by the start of November.

According to the Executive Office, the county could stand to lose $114 million in allocations due from the state if it takes an independent path.

The board voted 4-1 to work with the state to get further clarity on Hewitt’s

Albany County says spike in COVID-19 cases likely tied to schools

ALBANY — Another county resident died from the coronavirus and the county is experiencing an increase in cases likely tied to the resumption of school, Albany County officials said Friday.

The victim, a man in his 70s with underlying health issues, is the county’s 135th known death from COVID-19. He was the 346th confirmed victim in the eight-county Capital Region.

At a morning briefing with reporters, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said the percentage of new cases tied to outbreaks at the University at Albany are dropping but county officials warned they were seeing a slight increase in cases potentially tied to cases that have emerged since local school districts opened their doors in September..


On Sept. 17, 84 percent of the county’s new daily diagnoses were tied to the college. The following week, it dropped to 61 percent and it stood at just over 13 percent on Thursday, he said.

The surge in local coronavirus cases in August and early September was tied to social gathering among college students, a factor in the state’s decision to implement caseload limits that could ultimately lead to an end to in-person classes at the university. SUNY Oneonta took that step after a large outbreak at the very beginning of the fall semester.

“The students had to learn, right?,” McCoy said of the UAlbany situation. “Students came, got a little freedom and some of them didn’t do the right thing so that number went up. Now, I think they’re getting it.”

Still, County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said the county is starting to see “a little bit” of an uptick in cases. There were 28 new cases of the virus overnight, bringing the county’s five-day average of new daily cases to 14.8. That number was 8.4 at the start of September.

The uptick is likely tied to the resumption of school. At least 15 school districts in the eight-county area have announced positive cases since in-person learning began again this fall. Seven of them have suspended in-person learning to allow for tracing, testing and cleaning.

Additionally, on Tuesday, the county warned that it had seen a 12.5 percent increase in positive cases among 10- to 19-year-olds over the past week, compared to a 5.1 percent increase in 20- to 29-year-olds — who fueled much of the county’s cases over the summer.

“There was a concern that there would be a second surge of COVID in the fall,” Whalen said. “I don’t know whether what we’re seeing is constituting a surge but it is constituting a caution. So it’s important for people to know that COVID is still out there, there is still transmission in Albany County and people are still at risk.”

Earlier: An Albany elementary’s pre-k moves online after COVID-19 diagnosis

Third student tests positive for COVID-19 in East Greenbush

Hadley-Luzerne schools go all-virtual after sixth COVID-19 case

Queensbury closes two schools amid coronavirus cases

A number of test sites throughout the region offer testing for children, McCoy said. The state Department

L.A. County won’t move into a new reopening tier this week, officials say

Despite some promising numbers, Los Angeles County is not expected to move into a more permissive phase of relaxing coronavirus restrictions this week, public health officials announced Monday.



a person riding on the back of a car: Health worker Hannah Kwon works at a drive-thru COVID-19 test site established by Councilman Herb Wesson on Saturday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)


© Provided by The LA Times
Health worker Hannah Kwon works at a drive-thru COVID-19 test site established by Councilman Herb Wesson on Saturday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

In order to decide when a county can move to a new tier in California’s four-phase reopening plan, state officials are keeping an eye on two metrics: the rate of daily new cases per 100,000 residents over a recent seven-day period, which is adjusted to account for how much testing each county is doing, and the average percentage of tests for the virus that come back positive over seven days.

The state also recently created an equity metric that establishes specific positive case rate numbers that larger counties must meet in their poorer cities and neighborhoods.

L.A. County’s overall seven-day average positivity rate — 2.9% — and the positivity rate in its communities that have the fewest resources — 4.6% — both qualify the county to move into Tier 3, or orange, which indicates that community transmission is moderate, Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said Monday.

But the county last week reported an adjusted case rate of 7.3 cases per 100,000 residents, placing it within Tier 1, or purple, which indicates that community transmission is widespread. State officials have said that a county can’t move out of Tier 1 until its adjusted case rate drops to 7 or less for two consecutive weeks.

“So even if our numbers tomorrow are at 7 new cases per day or less, we would still need another week of qualifying metrics,” Ferrer said.

However, Ferrer said, it’s possible for L.A. County to progress to Tier 2, or red, even if it doesn’t get its case rate down to 7, provided the rate continues to decline, and that its positivity rate and equity metric continue to meet the criteria for Tier 3, or orange.

“Say we don’t get to 7 but we are at 7.1, so we dropped from 7.3 to 7.1,” Ferrer said. “Then there is a possibility, if we can continue that this week and next week, that we would be able to move to red — not to orange, but we’d be able to move up one tier.”

L.A. County recorded 472 additional cases of the virus and seven related deaths Monday, Ferrer said, though she noted that case numbers are usually low on Mondays due to a weekend reporting lag.

There were 685 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals as of Sunday, compared with more than 2,200 at the peak of the crisis in July.

The decline in new cases and hospitalizations has paved the way for the county to move forward with the latest wave of business reopenings, with casino cardrooms resuming outdoor operations Monday. Schools were also able to start applying to the county for waivers to resume in-person

How a Lego-like shipping container is bringing the future of mobile medicine to Harris County

The future of mobile medicine is coming to Harris County, focused initially on community-based COVID-19 testing but available for any emergency response or disease care.

The so-called SmartPods, portable aluminum units developed by Baylor College of Medicine for the Ebola outbreak in Africa and envisioned by NASA for the Mars habitat, will be deployed in the United States for the first time in east Harris County’s Precinct 2. The initiative is the brainchild of Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who sees the units as a way to increase health care access and keep people out of hospitals.

“This is the 21st century MASH unit being made available here,” said Garcia. “Tents were the first phase. This is the second phase.”

The first of the SmartPods opened Tuesday at Northeast Community Center in Aldine. Two more will follow, one at East Harris Activity Center in Pasadena and one at Flukinger Community Center in Channelview. Dates for their openings have not yet been set.

Each SmartPod is a modular four-room medical unit — self-contained, fully powered but capable of going off grid, impervious to outside weather conditions — inside a recycled shipping container that inventor Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy says is “almost like Ikea.” Anandasabathy, an internal medicine professor and the director of Baylor Global Initiatives, touts how the pods can be linked like Legos, how they fold up in minutes. Though they don’t travel themselves, they can be easily picked up and transported to areas of need, typically by truck but also by ship or helicopter, for instance.

The pods cost less than 5 percent of a brick-and-mortar medical unit, said Anandasabapathy. Precinct 2 is spending a total of $2.9 million in county funding on the Aldine and Pasadena units, money that covers their design, construction, transport, medical equipment and medical services. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) is expected to reimburse the money.

It is unclear if other Harris County commissioners will purchase units for their precincts, but Anandasabapathy said future plans call for the installation of two more in Precinct 2 — one for women’s health, and one for mental health. The SmartPod in Channelview, on loan from Baylor, will focus on primary care.

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Baylor is getting requests for the pods from other entities around the nation and globe. For now, it is able to build the units on demand, but hopes to turn the manufacturing over to a spin-off company by the end of the year.

The pods in Aldine and Pasadena, focused on COVID-19, feature respiratory isolation rooms. The hermetically sealed, negative-pressure rooms decrease the risk of airborne transmission of disease and enable doctors to treat contagious, sick patients in a safe way. Such rooms are impossible in tents and rare even in U.S. clinics.

More Information

Features of the SmartPod:

— 8 x 20 foot container that expands manually into a 400 square foot facility.

— Can withstand winds up to 116 miles per hour,

Ebola SmartPods bring future of mobile medicine to Harris County

The future of mobile medicine arrived in Harris County Tuesday, focused initially on community-based COVID-19 testing but available for any emergency response or disease care.

The so-called SmartPods, portable aluminum units developed by Baylor College of Medicine for the Ebola outbreak in Africa and envisioned by NASA for the Mars habitat, will be deployed in the United States for the first time in east Harris County’s Precinct 2. The initiative is the brainchild of Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who sees the units as a way to increase health care access and keep people out of hospitals.

“This is the 21st century MASH unit being made available here,” said Garcia, whose precinct is one of the region’s most medically underserved areas. “Tents were the first phase. This is the second phase.”

Each SmartPod is a modular three-bed medical unit — self-contained, fully powered, impervious to outside weather conditions — inside recycled shipping containers that inventor Sharmila Anandasabapathy says is “almost like Ikea.” Anandasabathy, an internal medicine doctor and the director of Baylor Global Initiatives, touts how the units are put together like Legos and can be folded up in minutes.

The pods cost less than 5 percent of the cost of a brick-and-mortar medical unit, said Anandasabapathy. Garcia is spending a total of $2.9 million on the units, which includes design, construction, transport, medical equipment and medical services.

The first of the SmartPods opened Tuesday at Northeast Community Center in Aldine. Others will be stationed at East Harris Activity Center in Pasadena and Flukinger Community Center in Channelview.

It is unclear if other Harris County precincts will purchase the units.

todd.ackerman@chron.com

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