Virus Outbreak Washington

Swedish Medical Center health care workers look on as first responders gathered outside the hospital in support of them in their work against the coronavirus outbreak Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Seattle.

(The Center Square) – The number of positive coronavirus tests over the past two months in Washington state is expected to increase after state health officials discovered a data error in the way the information was being reported.

The Washington State Department of Health had been saying that an average of 5.5 percent of the more than 480,000 tests performed since April 21 came back positive. The state now says that number is actually 6.2 percent.

“These negative test numbers, while inflated, have not impacted decision-making as it pertains to counties advancing through phases,” the health department said in a statement.

While the state said the overall number of positive cases remains correct, the percentage of daily positive tests give researchers an indication of potential hotspots in tracking virus outbreaks.

Statewide, there have been 27,192 confirmed cases and 1,245 deaths. In King County, where Seattle is located, there have been 8,963 positive tests and 597 deaths, accounting for a little less than half the state’s death toll. Up until last week, King County had been at more than 50 percent of fatal cases.

King County on Thursday was approved to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-step reopening plan.

The move allows restaurants and taverns to reopen with limited seating, and retail stores such as hair and nail salons, barbershops and others can reopen at 30 percent capacity.

Despite the state’s decision, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order keeping the city’s parks, public pools, libraries and community centers closed through at least the end of June. Permitted events, with the exception of farmers markets, will also remain closed.

Durkan also extended her executive orders prohibiting evictions, rent increases and utility shutoffs.

“In Seattle, even as communities protest, heal and work to find a path forward together, the effects of this pandemic and job losses cannot be ignored,” she said in a prepared statement.

Also in Seattle, Durkan and the city council have taken steps to set up a mobile coronavirus testing site in the six-block neighborhood being called the “Capitol Hill Organized Protest.”

The area was overtaken by protesters two weeks ago and declared a “cop-free autonomous zone” after officers were ordered to abandon the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct.

The city so far has not moved to reopen the area and used Seattle Department of Transportation workers and resources to help organizers set up barricades around the perimeter.

The city also said it would offer mental health counseling to those occupying the area.