Measuring a Pandemic

Unprecedented. Dramatic. Overwhelming. As the world struggles to find the words to explain what we’re feeling, seeing, and experiencing, we examine the numbers to better understand how our region, and Burien in particular, has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data Reveals the Extent of COVID-19’s Local Impact

Unprecedented. Dramatic. Overwhelming. As the world struggles to find the words to explain what we’re feeling, seeing, and experiencing, we examine the numbers to better understand how our region, and Burien in particular, has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The rate of confirmed cases, and those that had to be hospitalized as a result, was higher on average for Burien than King County as a whole. From January through August 2020, nearly 9 percent of the more than 7,000 residents tested in Burien were confirmed to have the virus, and fewer than 100 of those infected were hospitalized. Among Burien residents who were confirmed to have COVID-19, at least seventeen have died.

“I came in with low expectations of saving lives because of what was happening and what we were hearing around the world. I was pleasantly surprised by how many lives we were able to save. There were at least seven patients that were not expected to make it and we just kept pushing and working with them and eventually they went home.”

Richard, a registered nurse in the COVID Unit at St. Anne’s Hospital in Burien

Read more stories from frontline health care workers at St. Anne’s Hospital.

King County Snapshot

  • 18k+ positive cases
    • 27.6% are Hispanic or Latinx residents (Hispanic/Latinx residents represent 10% of the total population)
  • 2k+ hospitalizations
  • 700+ deaths
  • 23.9% of adults report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless for more than half of the week


The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the economy, and Burien has been no exception. As unemployment claims rose, from May through August White Center Food Bank and Highline Area Food Bank reported serving a combined 4,603 residents (totaling 291,953 pounds of food).

The City is facing a $4.9 million decrease in revenue this year owing in part to decreased sales tax and program and planning fees attributed to the pandemic. Revenue was already affected by the expiration of the Sales Tax Annexation Credit and a new law reducing the cost of car tabs to $30. In response, the City has reduced expenditures by $1.5 million and is exploring additional cuts that aim to preserve as many staff positions and essential services as possible.

“We’ve put together an outstanding, high performing staff that is second to none. Before COVID-19, the City was already running lean with 30 percent fewer staff than cities of comparable size, so the impacts of the pandemic were pretty dramatic.”

Burien City Manager Brian Wilson

Burien’s business owners reflect the rich diversity of the city, but also some of the most disproportionately affected populations with one-third of all businesses owned by people of color. Burien’s service-oriented industries—the restaurants with limited dine-in service, the small retailers competing against the surge in online shopping, and the health and wellness services unable to offer in-person appointments—were dealt a major blow. However, the 496 Burien businesses who received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program were able to retain 3,310 local jobs, and the City of Burien disbursed an additional $325,000 in grant funding to support our small businesses.

Read about how Burien’s businesses found creative ways to adapt and build resiliency.

King County Snapshot

Food packaged and boxed for donation in Burien.
  • 450k+ new unemployment claims since start of pandemic
    • 50.6% of employees in the accommodation and food services industry filed claims
    • 48.1% of employees in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry filed claims
    • 45.8% of employees identifying as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander filed claims
  • 1 in 10 adults report not having enough food to eat
  • 49% of requests to 2-1-1 for help with services like housing and utility assistance are from Black and Hispanic/Latinx callers


Nearly 20,000 students and 1,125 teachers from Highline Public Schools are starting the 2020-21 school year in a full distance-learning format. The decision was driven by analyzing COVID-19 trends, with the awareness that one-third of Highline staff identify as being in a “high-risk” group for COVID-19 infection and at least 29 percent of teachers live with someone in a high-risk group. 38.9 percent of students identify as Hispanic/Latinx, a group which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

In addition to serving more than 325,000 meals throughout spring and summer to students (69 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price meals even before the pandemic hit), 14,000 digital devices and 1,200 internet hotspots were distributed to assist students with transitioning to learning outside the classroom.

“Our teachers continue to teach our students from home, many while caring for their own children. I have never been prouder to work alongside our amazing Highline teachers and staff.”

Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield

King County Snapshot

Child holds laptop.
  • 67,000 households have no internet access
  • 21,200 children have no computer or broadband internet
  • 34% of students receive free/reduced-price meals or experience food insecurity
  • 14.8% of Hispanic/Latinx students had to cut or skip meals due to lack of money

COVID-19 data dashboards, Public Health — Seattle & King County
SBA Paycheck Protection Program Loan Level Data, U.S. Department of the Treasury
Decennial Census Datasets, United States Census Bureau
District Information Fast Facts, Highline Public Schools
Return to Learn: Beginning the Year in Full Distance Learning, Highline Public Schools
COVID-19 Vulnerable Communities Data Tool, Communities Count
All data retrieved August 2020.
Devin Chicras
Communications Specialist at | More posts
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