For months, we’ve speculated about which settings and gatherings are continuing to spread coronavirus here in Washington. During a press conference a few weeks ago, state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy couldn’t divulge data about the origins of Covid-19 outbreaks in the state just yet. She could reveal some depressing news, though: They had detected viral spread in just about every indoor setting imaginable.
Last night, the Washington State Department of Health released a six-page report that puts numbers to those words. Using information from local health jurisdictions, the state determined that long-term care facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family homes) have registered the most outbreaks, with 459 documented through July 25. But there’s some reason for optimism at these sites: A disproportionate number of the episodes occurred early in the pandemic, before the governor’s office mandated widespread testing of their residents and workers.
On a brighter note, hospitals and other health care settings tallied just 53 outbreaks over the same period. That low number could help convince people to stop putting off surgeries and much-needed treatments for other maladies.
As for the places you might not expect to reckon with a lethal illness, described as “non-health care settings” in the report, Washington’s seen 411 outbreaks of Covid-19. The state's definition of “outbreak” in this context is pretty strict. Two or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, at least one of which must be verified, qualify as a Covid-19 outbreak, provided their symptoms arrive within two weeks of each other and there’s “plausible epidemiological evidence of transmission in a shared location other than a household.” These are the industry settings where that’s happened the most thus far:
- Agriculture/produce packing: 57 outbreaks
- Manufacturing (food and food-related): 44
- Retail/grocery: 44
- Food service/restaurant: 44
- Manufacturing (non-food): 34
This isn't earth-shattering. The meatpacking industry's struggles with Covid-19, for instance, had already been well-documented. But retail and grocery stores? Not so much. And anyone debating the pros and cons of takeout versus sit-down dining may be hungry for more intel on those restaurant incidents.
Of note: Private events (birthday bashes?) are responsible for 19 outbreaks, and construction sites, which reopened before just about any other business, account for 17. Places of worship and corrections facilities each registered nine outbreaks, and offices just one.
Here’s the full report.