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Tripling of cases fails to move county; yet more new cases disclosed

Staff writers

Despite the county's COVID-19 case total more than tripling since their last vote, county commissioners reaffirmed Monday their decision to opt out of a statewide order requiring face masks in public places when six-foot distancing cannot be maintained.

Hours later, yet another confirmed case was added to the county's total — a man in his 50s, listed Monday evening as the county's 34th victim of COVID-19. It was the eighth new case in five days. A day later, a 35th probable victim was revealed — a man in his 20s.

Three new cases were confirmed Sunday — a man in his 40s, a woman in her 40s, and a teenage girl, less than a day after health officials reported Saturday that a man in his 80s had become the county's 30th victim. Two children — a boy younger than 10 and a girl between 10 and 17 years old — became the 28th and 29th confirmed victims Friday. A woman in her 20s was identified Wednesday as the county’s 27th COVID-19 patient.

Since commisioners' initial rejection of the statewide mandate, new cases have been confirmed at a pace of more than one a day after for nearly two months of remaining unchanged under stay-at-home orders.

More about the commissioners' discussion of face masks will be included in this week's print editions Wednesday.

Just 18 days ago, when commissioners unanimously voted to overturn a state mandate that face coverings be worn in public when six-foot distancing was not maintained, the county had only 11 confirmed or presumptive cases.

Reno and Harvey Counties, which similarly rejected the state mask mandate, have since reversed their positions and accepted the order.

Health officials told commissioners Monday that 11 cases (now, presumably, 12) are regarded as active, meaning patients still are exhibiting symptoms of the disease. They declined to release that number Sunday after at least one commissioner objected last week that he was hearing information from news media before he was informed as a commissioner.

Since the pandemic began, one county resident has died of COVID-19. As of the last update on active cases, 21 of the remaining 33 confirmed or presumptive patients are now deemed to be free of symptoms.

As of Monday, Marion County was tied in 56th place statewide i terms of the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 1,000 resident. Marion County's rate is now 2.9 cases per 1,000 residents, up from 2.3 and 63rd place Friday.

Hardest-hit counties are Ford (Dodge City), 61.3 cases per 1,000 residents; Seward (Liberal), 49.4; Finney (Garden City), 43.6; and Wyandotte (Kansas City), 23.1.

Among neighboring counties or counties frequently visited by Marion County residents, Lyon (Emporia) had the highest infection rate, 16.6 per 1,000 residents; Sedgwick (Wichita) was next at 6.1; Saline (Salina), 5.2; McPherson, 3.8; and Harvey (Newton), 3.5.

Other regional counties have lower infection rates that Marion: Reno (Hutchinson), 2.8; Chase, 2.3; Butler (El Dorado), 2.1; Dickinson (Herington and Abilene), 1.7; and Morris (Council Grove), 1.1.

Related commentary

• Previous story from printed edition

Staff writer

With 12 new COVID-19 cases in the last week, the county total now stands at 26, more than half of them diagnosed within 12 days of a July 2 county commissioners’ decision to overturn a governor’s order to wear face masks in public.

A record five new cases were reported Thursday, three new cases Friday, and four more Monday. Genders and ages of the victims were not revealed by the health department.

Department director Diedre Serene has said she wouldn’t release information that might identify specific COVID-19 victims. She said that included their gender and age ranges until they were logged into the state’s COVID-19 statistics.

Out of 15 cases diagnosed since July 2, fully 14 remain “active,” which means victims are still in treatment. Active cases now in the county account for nearly two-thirds of all cases reported since April 2.

Two of the cases reported in the last week are considered “probable,” meaning no laboratory test was done but the person developed symptoms matching the disease after they were known to have been exposed.

Unconfirmed information obtained by the newspaper indicates that no area of the county has escaped the virus and many of the victims have traveled out of the county or engaged in unsafe activities such as participation in group events without protection.

This newspaper repeatedly has complained about the usual level of secrecy, not common in other counties, surrounding COVID cases in Marion County and repeatedly has suggested that at least some information could be released without jeopardizing patient privacy. Especially significant would be information giving some indication what activities and locations have been associated with contracting the disease.

Serene encourages people to wear masks in public, thoroughly wash hands several times a day, stay at least six feet away from others, avoid gatherings of 45 or more, and practice cough etiquette.

“Wear the masks in public,” Serene said. “My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”

Last modified July 22, 2020

 

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