BY JUSTIN SABATA
During Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting, county health director Jason Kennedy reported eight new cases of COVID-19 in Ellis County over the weekend, in comparison to five last weekend.
Kennedy reported 13 active cases of COVID-19 in the county, including one hospitalization with a 3.5 percent-of-positive rate, an increase from past weeks. Percent-of-positives measure the percentage of total COVID tests which turn up positive on a weekly basis. Weekly average case growth has also seen an incline.
“Both those numbers are concerning in that we do see an increase,” Kennedy said. “We never want to see increases, we want to see continued decline.”
Kennedy continued with what he believes these statistics mean for the community.
“It indicates people taking their last summer vacation, it indicates weddings, it indicates funerals,” he said. “It indicates people moving more, it indicates people gathering in groups, it indicates people becoming less accepting of these draconian measures.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment encourages schools to use a percent-of-positive rate that stretches over a 14-day period, not weekly. This is one metric used as guidance for reopening criteria for schools across the state. According to Kennedy, this is also slowly increasing in the county.
However, the statistics for Ellis County are still low compared to other counties across the state.
According to Kennedy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ranked Ellis County 42nd out of 105 counties in cases-per-100,000 people – adjusted for counties with lower populations – compared to being 20th in total population.
“So, we are doing better per capita,” Kennedy said. “But, with inclines happening – with Fort Hays State coming back to town, with schools going back in session – inclines are concerning because they impact the state’s metrics in gating criteria for schools.”
Kennedy, a father of three, stated the importance of remaining diligent during the pandemic and how choices can affect education in the community.
“I understand that the county is tired, I understand that the citizens are tired, I understand that we’re all tired of COVID,” he said. “But, if we want kids back in the buildings – we want kids to get something from this year, we want kids to be educated and to do it in an environment that is safe for them – I need people to not be tired. I need them to be educated and I need them to follow the basic principles of public health with mitigation measures.”
Kennedy reiterated what these mitigation measures include:
“Wash your hands, don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth,” he said. “Do not gather in groups. I don’t know how many times I can stress that.”
The health director also reminded the public to practice social distancing as well as wearing a face covering, as one without the other still increases the risk of spread.