COVID-19 cases expected to rise alongside flu season, long-term care residents affected most by pandemic

BY JUSTIN SABATA 

Monday

As has been the case for a few months, Ellis County Director of Health Services Jason Kennedy had to repeat himself when giving his COVID report to the county commission.

“Seems like a broken record every week – cases are up, impacts are up,” Kennedy said. “You see it in the news media – it doesn’t matter whether you’re liberal or conservative – both news stations say the same thing; cases are up nationwide, cases are up worldwide.”

However, as communities around the world are experiencing a second or third wave of the virus, Ellis County has yet to see this wave according to Kennedy.

“Ellis County, we’re actually flat,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been consistently flat for a couple weeks, you know, three or four weeks.”

The health director also reported a decline from the county’s COVID peak from early September, as the two-week cases per-100,000 people (a metric used to equate large and small communities) has declined by more than half since then (1,236 cases in September, 539 reported on Monday).

The weekly percent-of-positives is still high in Ellis County, with the overall rate steadily increasing (12.3% last week, 12.6% on Monday). However, asymptomatic individuals in the county have not been tested as often according to Kennedy.

“We don’t lack testing, we have a significant amount of testing,” Kennedy said. “We don’t have as many people reaching out to be tested, especially asymptomatic people. We are testing all symptomatic people, we’ve never turned anybody away from the start.”

For the past two weeks, the county has had a consistent weekly average of 13 new COVID cases per week. Kennedy predicted cases and the weekly average will continue to increase due to the colder weather ahead.

“As we see flu season coming on, people are going to be more symptomatic, they’re going to seek out medical care, they’re going to have COVID,” Kennedy said. “So, we’re going to see cases continue to go up – we’ll see that number probably not significantly higher than what it is, but it will stay consistent at least for the foreseeable future.”

Kennedy also addressed the statewide concerns over hospital capacity during the pandemic.

“If you look at the Kansas data, we have 5,329 in-patient beds available,” Kennedy said. “5,000 beds in the Kansas hospital network that are available.”

The health director also reported 82% of the state’s ventilators are still available, as well as 43% of Intensive Care Unit beds. 

On Monday, there were 16 total COVID-19-related deaths in Ellis County. Though it is not an easy subject to turn into a statistic, the numbers identify one of the demographics most affected by the ongoing pandemic.

“If we look, statistically speaking, we know the population that is at risk,” Kennedy said. “50% of the total death toll in the state of Kansas comes out of long-term care residents. In Ellis County, 90% of the death toll comes out of long-term care residents.”

Kennedy predicted an effective vaccine for individuals aged 65 and younger will not be available for at least a year. 

“We know what we can do to help,” Kennedy said. “Every person has been educated for the last ten-and-a-half months on measures they can personally take to lessen the impact to the family, to the individual, to the community.”

Wednesday

The following are the statistics reported by the Ellis County Health Department on Wednesday via their COVID-19 Portal.

New Cases: 23

New Cases per day, 7-day average: 11

Active COVID-19 cases: 117

Active hospitalizations: 6

Recovered cases: 1,192

Positive tests: 1,247

Total tests: 9,843

Percent-of-positives: 12.7%

Percent-of-positives, 7-day average: 16.8%

Total deaths: 16

Total cases (including past probable cases): 1,325

The ECHD advises residents to visit their website for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Ellis County. The department also recommends individuals receive flu shots this season. An appointment can be made with the ECHD by calling 785-628-9440.

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