County COVID numbers improving; health director advises precautions and vaccine education

BY JUSTIN SABATA

COVID Currently

While the COVID-19 virus is still present in the county, there have been improvements. Hospitalizations have decreased from 18 to 13 since Monday. 304 active cases were also reported Wednesday by the Ellis County Health Department, about a 26% decrease from two days ago. Ellis County Health Services Director Jason Kennedy analyzed the week’s COVID numbers during Monday’s county commission meeting.

“We do see our case numbers decreasing in Ellis County, we see our number of tests decreasing as well,” Kennedy said. “We’ve talked before – more tests, more cases – percent-of-positives figures into that – less tests, less cases.” 

Fortunately, the rate of positive cases has been coincidently decreasing in the county.

“But, our percent-of-positives is decreasing as well,” Kennedy said. “So, our cases are decreasing, our percent-of-positives are decreasing, our hospitalizations of Ellis County residents [are] decreasing some, marginally.” 

Since Monday, the weekly percent-of-positives rate has bumped up from 18.70% to 21.30%. However, it is still an improvement from rates as high as 40% a few weeks ago.

Even with talks of a vaccine and improving numbers, the health director advises residents of Ellis County to adopt or continue appropriate medical precautions. 

“As we go through the winter months, as we look and we push forward with still maintaining whatever normalcy we have left, people still need to take those best public health measures,” Kennedy said. “They need to wear their mask, wash their hands – do not gather in groups just period – and you know, just avoid that stuff.”

Current and up-to-date virus information in Ellis County is available on the health department’s COVID-19 Portal.

Vaccine

A COVID vaccine will be available for medical personnel soon in Ellis County after almost ten months of uncertainty. The first vaccine in Kansas was given on Monday and, because of the limited amount at the time, is being prioritized for healthcare workers. Kennedy explained the current vaccine situation as it relates to the county.

“We do believe that sometime this week there will be Pfizer vaccine in the community,” Kennedy said. “It will be prioritized for frontline healthcare workers, hospital staff.” 

Kennedy further explained why the Pfizer vaccine will be used mostly for healthcare staff.

“There’s a couple of nuances to that vaccine that make it really difficult for general public distributions,” Kennedy said. “One of them is the temperatures it needs to be stored at and also the way it needs to be mixed and put together to actually be given.” 

An additional vaccine produced by Moderna should reportedly be approved for emergency use sometime later this week. Kennedy estimated that it should arrive in the state by around Dec. 22. 

“That vaccine will be prioritized more for our EMS personnel – other frontline workers dealing with COVID response,” Kennedy said. 

The State reported to the ECHD that Kansas is estimated to receive about 25,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and around 16,000 doses from Moderna. Despite the small number of doses, Kennedy still encourages the public to research the types of vaccines sooner than later.

“People, honestly, need to educate themselves,” Kennedy said. “Don’t listen to the information that you get off C-SPAN, and don’t listen to the information off FOX News – actually go do the research yourself. Determine whether the vaccine is good for you.”

Based on current information, the health director predicts that the vaccine will be available for the general public in March or April.

“So, people have time to go out and look,” Kennedy said.

Further information on COVID vaccines can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website.

FHSU COVID-19 Dashboard Report

The COVID numbers from the final week of the semester were recently published by FHSU. According to the dashboard, of the 14 tests administered at the Student Health Center, 5 returned positive. No students were in on-campus quarantine during finals week but one was in off-campus isolation. 110 surveillance tests were conducted, the most so far this semester. Three of the surveillance tests were positive. 

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