• Last modified 922 days ago (Nov. 19, 2020)


County halts daily COVID updates

Staff writer

No new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday because the county health department decided to halt daily COVID-19 updates, county health nurse Diedre Serene said.

The department now will provide reports on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, similar to the state department of health and environment.

Serene also was unsure what percentage of the county had been in quarantine at some point since the pandemic started.

The decision came just a few days after Thursday’s report of 31 new cases, which matched Marion County’s one-day record.

In addition to Thursday’s new cases, other reports over the past seven days included 10 new cases reported Friday and 23 new cases reported Monday.

Health department employees are being stretched thin to provide daily updates, Serene said. She said she did not have total of cases from Tuesday to provide.

“In order to call everybody to get everything in and talk to the physician, talk to the patient, and KDHE, we can’t stop that to figure out,” she said. “We have two nurses and they have to get together. We just can’t; they are busy returning phone calls and doing that.”

The health department has two nurses who handle COVID-19 contact tracing, one in the health department’s office and the other who works remotely, Serene said.

In the past week, the county had several days with seven-day totals over 80. That included seven day totals of 88 new cases for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Monday’s seven-day total was 80 cases.

Officially, with zero new cases Tuesday, the total dropped to 64 reported cases over a seven-day period.

The county’s rate of infection is 31.4 cases per 1,000, a seven-day increase 5.4, but it is unknown whether there actually were no new cases Tuesday because there was no report.

Kansas Department of Education guidelines urge local school districts to cancel face-to-face classes and activities and teach remotely when more than 10% of COVID-19 tests administered in their community during any two-week period come back positive.

According to the most recent data released by the county health department, Marion County has seen nearly 5 times that positivity rate — 49.7% — in the past 14 days and a rate nearly 6 times that — 59.7% — in the past seven days. Again, it is unknown whether there actually were no new cases.

Peabody-Burns and Centre each had school board meetings last week where they discussed how long middle and high school students might have to keep learning remotely.

Peabody-Burns high school students will learn remotely through Nov. 30, while Centre middle and high school students.

Remote learning is especially difficult for young students, Peabody-Burns superintendent Ron Traxson said, which is why a strong attempt is being made to keep elementary school students in a classroom setting.

“The younger you get, the tougher it is to remote learn,” he said. “Fifth graders will do better than first graders, without a doubt.”

Hillsboro, which has middle and high school students in hybrid learning, said it would maintain that model at least through Thanksgiving, and possibly Christmas.

All three schools are looking with concern at the possibility of COVID-19 quickly spreading during Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving will be an event,” Hillsboro superintendent Max Heinrichs said. “People will travel to go see people. My problem is the next Monday.”

All three schools confirmed that almost all their cases came from students who caught COVID-19 from a family member.

Ever since outbreaks were reported at county nursing homes and in county schools, the health department has not disclosed the age or gender of new patients. It never has disclosed their location or how the disease might have been transmitted to them.

Parkside Homes in Hillsboro found out a second employee was reported with COVID-19, but he was an as-needed worker who had not worked prior to the COVID diagnosis, human resources director Roblyn Regier said.

Neither employee works with residents, nor had either been in contact with the other, she said.

Tests are being given at Parkside regularly, Regier said, but she still gets nervous when results come back.

“Every time we test, my heart is in my throat,” she said. “Just because of the numbers that are rolling back from in the county.”

Parkside contended it was the fifth nursing home to report a case, and not the third, as was reported last week. Parkside declined further comment.

One of the county’s five nursing homes, Peabody Health and Rehab has had 100% of its COVID-19 tests come back negative, administrator Melissa Parmley said.

Salem Home in Hillsboro, the county’s only other nursing homes, could not be reached for comment.

Last modified Nov. 19, 2020