COVID numbers decrease in Ellis County, health director still recommends caution

BY JUSTIN SABATA

The pandemic situation in Ellis County appears to be improving. According to county health director, Jason Kennedy, reported COVID-19 numbers have returned to where they were prior to the holiday-related spike in early July. Five new cases were reported from the weekend, with 12 active cases and two hospitalizations in the county. 

“We need people to still make good decisions,” Kennedy said. “Not gathering in groups is really the biggest thing.” 

Nearly 1,100 new cases were reported statewide over the weekend. Commissioner Dean Haselhorst raised the question of testing statistics in Ellis County. As of August 10, there have been 2,780 reported COVID tests in the county, roughly 9% of the population of Ellis County. 

According to Kennedy, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment encourages testing only when the person has similar symptoms, unless the person is at a greater risk to the virus.  

“The KDHE is actually still not recommending asymptomatic testing,” Kennedy said. “We will do asymptomatic testing for certain cohort populations.”

These populations include first responders and long-term care residents.  

Commissioner Dustin Roths asked Kennedy how these numbers compare to other counties in the state, more specifically, the peer counties surrounding Ellis County.

“We’re still significantly lower than most of the counties based on population density,” Kennedy said. 

Ellis County is currently ranked 23rd out of 105 counties in total COVID cases, according to the New York Times.

Commissioner Butch Schlyer was concerned with the COVID testing situation once cold and flu season hits the community. Kennedy stated that the decision to test will continue to be left to the resident’s physician. 

“The best thing we can do is let doctors be doctors, and try to figure that out,” Kennedy said.

The mask mandate for Hays is scheduled to end August 31, a week before Labor Day. The decrease in COVID cases in Ellis County, according to Kennedy, began between the period of July 19th and July 22nd, five-to-eight days before the mandate was in place July 27th. These numbers have continued to decrease since the mandate, but more data is still needed to determine the overall effectiveness of mask mitigation.

“As you go with mitigating measures, your hope is that they compound and they continue to make bigger increases,” Kennedy said. “But you also can’t really look at the data until you’re looking back, so you have to be at the end of that (latency) period to really look back on the data.” 

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