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COVID-19 Infection Rate Particularly High in Auburn and South King County

The first U.S. case of COVID-19, a Snohomish County man, was confirmed January 21. The first COVID-19 death, a man in Kirkland, was reported on February 29. Nearly eleven months later, more than 110,000 people in Washington have been infected with the virus, and more than 2,400 people have died from it.

Stay home orders, hand washing, mask mandates, and social distancing are just some of the methods being used throughout the country to combat COVID-19. Health officials are also urging those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to get tested. Anyone with likely exposure to someone with COVID-19, or an outbreak situation, should also get tested. 

“It might save the life of one of your loved ones.”

Getting tested when you have no symptoms can seem unnecessary. However, “it is recognized that nearly half of all [COVID-19] infections are transmitted by people who are not showing any symptoms,” states the National Institute of Health. “Identifying infected individuals while they are presymptomatic, as well as those who are asymptomatic, will play a major role in stopping the pandemic.”

Free COVID-19 Testing in Auburn

Public Health – Seattle & King County currently has drive-thru testing sites providing free testing to anyone who needs it, regardless of insurance or immigration status. Valley Regional Fire hosts the Auburn site. Firefighters and medics from around the valley perform the test, which Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus assures is quick and painless.

“It’s not nearly as bad as you may have heard,” said Backus. “It can save your health, and it might save the life of one of your loved ones by taking this simple test.”

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What to Expect

At a drive-up testing site, you remain in your car the entire time. A county employed technician will check you in. Pre-registration is not required but is recommended. Bring your insurance card and photo ID if you have them. No one will be turned away if they do not have insurance or a driver’s license.

A firefighter or EMS worker will perform your COVID-19 test. After confirming your information, the first responder testing you will review the test with you. The actual test consists of inserting a long swab (like a long Q-tip) into each nostril. The swab is rotated 8-10 times, remaining inside each nostril for approximately 15 seconds. Your sample will be placed in a single-use tube and sent off for testing.

You will be provided information on when to expect your results and how you will receive them.

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Mayor Nancy Backus gets a COVID-19 test at the Auburn COVID-19 drive-thru testing site | for the Auburn Examiner

Auburn’s High Infection Rates

King County has tested 558,794 King County residents 896,704 times. 3.3% (29,465) of all tests for King County residents have returned positive. Of the positive tests, 8.9% (2,629) have resulted in hospitalization, and 2.7% (810) have resulted in death.

The C St SE testing site has administered 11,914 tests since it opened in September, with 12.8%* of all tests returning positive. The testing site’s high rate of positive test results is indicative of the particularly high rate of infection in south King County.

Auburn** has tested 15,567 people 21,876 times, making the percentage of people who have tested positive in Auburn is 8.2% (1,798). Of those who tested positive, 165 (9.2%) have resulted in hospitalizations, and 34 (1.9%) have resulted in death.

The higher infection rate is concerning to Backus. “We need to do a better job of wearing masks, washing our hands, and social distancing. If we want to get back to ‘normal,’ we need to make sure we’re following safety guidelines from doctors and scientists.”

The cause of the higher infection rate in Auburn and South King County is unclear. “I can only guess,” said Backus, “We have a higher number of essential employees that live in South King County, so they don’t have that luxury of working from home. They’re out, taking transit, and in their cars. They’re physically at work where the risks are higher than if they were at home.”

Personal Experience With COVID-19

AE Team member Cameron Thrall tested positive for COVID-19 in July. “It was more uncomfortable than recovering from surgery,” said Thrall. “It wasn’t flulike at all.”

“No matter how hard I tried to inhale, I couldn’t get air to my diaphragm.”

Thrall’s 18-year-old daughter began to have a cough in late June. She took a test out of precaution and was COVID-19 positive; Thrall and his wife tested negative. The whole family quarantined from each other and everyone else. Unfortunately, it was too late.

Thrall’s daughter did contact tracing on her own. The only place she’d gone was to drop a graduation present off at a friend’s house, so she started there. When his daughter stopped by the home, there were roughly 20 other teens present. Unbeknownst to her, several of those in attendance knew they were COVID-19 positive and attended anyway. Thrall’s daughter stated she stopped by the gathering for no more than 15 minutes.

“It wasn’t flulike at all.”

Thrall’s symptoms began with a low-grade fever. After several days he developed a dry cough that was “annoying more than anything. At about 2:00 am on day four or five, no matter how hard I tried to inhale, I couldn’t get air to my diaphragm,” said Thrall. It took several hours for Thrall’s blood oxygen levels to return to above 90%.

Among Thrall’s other symptoms was a lack of appetite, making it difficult to regain energy. It took Thrall several weeks to recover from what he feels was a mild case of COVID-19.  

“I’d tested negative once and then positive the second time,” said Thrall.

It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with COVID-19 is different.

The Lasting Impact of COVID-19

Since recovering from COVID-19, Thrall’s physical abilities have diminished. “Going into COVID-19, I could run four to five miles at a decent pace and do interval training without a problem. Six weeks after COVID-19, I tried running again and couldn’t do a mile. I can’t get air into my lungs.”

With his stamina still diminish, Thrall has not returned to playing hockey.  

Thrall is also experiencing what he calls ‘Covid brain.’ Akin to ‘pregnancy brain,’ Thrall describes a lack of focus and being prone to doing things like asking for a person’s phone number when speaking to them on the phone.  

The Importance of Precautions

With the continued rise in COVID-19 cases in South King County and across the country, there is no doubt the disease will remain for some time to come. The best way to help slow the spread is to take precautions and get tested.  Covid-19 Washington, covid-19 new cases, covid-19 king county, covid-19 snohomish, covid-19 washington state, coronavirus king county, covid19, covid-19 deaths, auburn wa covid-19, auburn wa coronavirus, covid-19 deaths auburn, coronavirus deaths auburn wa,

Thrall acknowledged that the constant reminders of taking precautions have “made us fatigued on precautions. But we need to take precautions. Wash our hands and wear a mask, but social distancing is best. The precautions we’re taking aren’t for you; they’re for everyone else,” said Thrall.

“My biggest thing is this will show how selfish people are,” continued Thrall. “My rights aren’t being trampled; this isn’t a political statement – it’s a humanity statement.”

Backus wants to see the spread slowed and that local businesses do not face another shutdown. “We in South King County are strong. Following the directives will make it so we can get back to ‘normal’ – eat in a restaurant with friends without masks, so that kids can get back to school with friends. But we have to be responsible right now and do what the scientists are telling us.”

*As of Friday, October 30, 2020
 **It is important to note this data is only for the King County portion of Auburn. Public Health Tacoma-Pierce County does not provide individual data for cities with populations less than 20,000.

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