• Last modified 691 days ago (July 1, 2020)


Officials won't divulge details of 11th COVID case

Staff writer

Even as Marion County confirmed yet another case of COVID-19 Sunday — the fourth new case in the past 15 days — health officials still decline to provide specific information about patients.

County health nurse Diedre Serene said Monday that she had received many complaints about information being withheld.

She said the health department will start providing age demographics for new patients and whether they have traveled outside the county or outside the state when that information is known.

The county now has 11 confirmed cases. One new case was reported a week ago. Two additional cases were reported a week before that.

The health department disclosed Sunday that two county residents continue to be treated for active COVID-19 infections. Which two cases were active was not disclosed but are likely the two latest patients.

The total had not increased since mid-April, shortly after stay-at-home orders were imposed.

One early patient in the county died in April. Several county patients were related to known COVID patients who live in other counties. One patient was known to have traveled within the state.

County health nurse Diedre Serene said she did not know whether the newest patient had traveled.

“Contract tracing helps us track where people may have been exposed,” Serene said.

The county health department traces the contacts of county residents with the virus, but if a person contracts the virus in another county, the other county traces its patient’s contacts.

“We want to get the word out, but we don’t have enough information,” Serene said. “All of that depends. If we can’t figure out where they got it, then we can consider it community spread.”

What risk factors may have led to infection is not always known right away, she said.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment considers a patient’s Zip code to be identifying information in counties with smaller populations, such as Marion County, she said. Thus not even a Zip code may be released.

Deciding whether patients have recovered can be difficult, too, she said.

“Technically if they don’t have symptoms, are they recovered?” Serene said. “People can lose their sense of taste and smell, and they may not get that back, even months later. If they have another health issue going on at the same time, is that the other health condition or is it COVID? Knowing whether someone is completely recovered is not as easy as people think.”

Unconfirmed rumors suggest that one of the new cases involved a person who attended a social event in the Kansas City area and another involved a cheerleader who attended team practices at Centre High School.

Unconfirmed rumors also suggest that one of the cases from March or April involved a Hillsboro-area farmer who delivered grain out of the county and that another involved a Hillsboro woman who had traveled abroad.

Two of the cases reportedly involved patients whose relatives include people working in jobs related to health care.

Health officials continue to emphasize that residents should remain at least six feet away from anyone not residing in the same residence. They also should frequently and thoroughly wash their hands, sanitize frequently touched surfaces, stay home when sick, and always wear a face covering when in public.

Reporters covering events around the county, including Saturday’s graduation ceremonies at Peabody-Burns High School, have noted that many of these precautions are not being observed.

At one point in the ceremony Saturday, all graduates were loaded into a school bus, where social distancing would be impossible. The students were not wearing masks.

“I had someone ask me if I’m the witch who made the graduation be outside,” Serene said.

She was not happy to learn the students on the bus were not wearing masks.

“People should definitely wear masks in situations where social distancing is not possible,” she said.

Similar situations have been noted at many other events and gatherings.

Last modified July 1, 2020