Ellis County reports 72 new COVID cases, majority aged 18-24

BY JUSTIN SABATA

On Monday, the Ellis County Health Department reported 72 new COVID-19 cases, the highest spike the county has seen. This brings current active cases in the county up to 98. The department also reported a weekly percent-of-positive rate of 11.47, up from 3.5 last Monday. There is still one active hospitalization and one death in the county. 

Initially, there was an error in these statistics with 49 cases not reported to the state Aug. 17 to 21 by the Clinical Reference Laboratory in Lenexa — the lab chosen by Fort Hays State University to test students. A total of 23 additional new cases were reported Monday, bringing the total to 72 new active cases.

According to a Monday press release from the ECHD, Ellis County averaged nearly 8 cases a day on Aug. 20, contrasting to just more than one case per day on Aug. 12. Included in the release is a description of symptoms in current cases:

“Many of the new cases have mild to no symptoms, which can make it difficult to control the spread of the virus through contact tracing and isolation.”

According to the release, 77% of the active cases in the county consist of residents aged 18 to 24 years old. House parties, some with large groups, have been reported at residences near campus. Last Friday, Fort Hays State University and the ECHD released a joint statement on potential exposure to COVID-19 on Aug. 14 and 15.

“Several people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 attended house parties and visited bars in Hays on Friday, 8/14/2020, and Saturday, 8/15/2020,” the statement said. “Congregating at parties and in bars increases your risk of becoming infected and accelerates community spread.”

The ECHD recommends no group gatherings, as well as wearing a mask with social distancing included, not one or the other. FHSU also recommends these precautions and requires masks to be worn on campus. Students in Residential Life buildings are required to wear masks with the exception of their own rooms.   

Students have yet to be notified via email of this recent spike. On Monday, students received reminders to order CRL tests, which are due Aug. 31. FHSU students also received a daily student announcements email which did not include any information on the recent jump in cases.

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