COVID slows but post-travel surge feared
Lowest seven-day total of new cases, but impact of holiday not yet felt
Despite reporting only 34 new cases of COVID-19 in the seven days that ended Monday, health officials are bracing for what they expect will be a surge in cases after Christmas.
The newest cases — 22 on Monday and 12 last Wednesday — add up to the lowest seven-day total since just Thanksgiving, but that probably doesn’t indicate a drop in spread of coronavirus.
“A lot of people, if they have it, they don’t want to get tested around a holiday so they can still be with family and friends,” county health administrator Diedre Serene said.
The county recorded rising case totals after both Halloween and Thanksgiving, hitting a peak of 72 new cases in seven days after Thanksgiving and an all-time peak of 88 new cases in seven days after Halloween. Before Halloween, seven-day totals rarely exceeded 20.
The latest cases bring to 658 the total number of COVID-19 cases reported in the county.
Though the rise in new cases has fallen to only 2.9 new cases per 1,000 residents this past week, that’s still nearly three times the federal standard for the county being declared a “red zone,” which may prompt other communities to require travelers to quarantine after visiting the county.
A total of 41 county residents, down from 75 last Wednesday, continued to be in isolation, receiving treatment, or experiencing symptoms of the disease as of Monday. Eight of them, up two from last Wednesday, are hospitalized.
The county continues to list only five deaths from COVID-19 even though officials are aware of other deaths.
According to Serene, deaths are recorded only after death certificates reach the state — a process that she says may take four to five weeks.
The health department, having gotten vaccines, is vaccinating health care workers now. Vaccines come in 10-dose vials, so the department needs to vaccinate 10 people at a time, Serene said.
Serene doesn’t know when the next shipment will arrive.
“We just get notified the day, day before,” she said.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment has not announced who will be eligible to be vaccinated in the next round.
“I think it will be essential workers, but I don’t know that for sure,” Serene said.
People who are vaccinated will be contacted later to see if they developed symptoms of the virus afterward, to help see how long they are protected.
“The studies haven’t been out that far to verify how long they are effective,” Serene said.
Both approved vaccines require two doses.
Vaccine arrival is not time to let down your guard, Serene warned.
“If you’ve had COVID, you are thought to be immune for 90 days,” Serene said.
People should not become complacent because vaccines have been released, she told county commissioners Monday.
“I don’t want someone to think if they’ve had the vaccine they can stop wearing masks,” Serene said. “They aren’t fully immune until they’ve had the second shot, so we want them to still wear their masks.”
No new update on COVID totals is expected until Wednesday.