Wyandotte County continues to see stabilization in average COVID-19 case rates, according to Juliann Van Liew, Unified Government Health Department director.
She said the county recently changed from the 14-day rolling averages to 7-day moving averages to help make short-term decisions on whether to move on to the next phase or zone. She made her report at the UG Commission meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday.
She said the county has an average of 10 to 15 positive cases a day, down from 40 a few weeks ago. There will be a spike, however, from this past Tuesday, which showed 35 new cases, she added. The death rate also is fairly stable, she said.
“If there is a surge that came out of Memorial Day weekend, we won’t see that until next week, probably,” Van Liew said. Often, it’s about a week for a person to develop symptoms, get tested and for the county Health Department to receive the results.
Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer of Wyandotte County, said they are very interested in following the data on racial and ethnic parameters of the pandemic.
There was a change with the positive cases last week in a large number of refugee and immigrant community members who live in Kansas City, Kansas, many of whom worked at a meatpacking plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, or an area packing plant, he said. The race and ethnicity case numbers of Wyandotte County COVID-19 patients now are highest among Asians and Hispanics, he said.
However, the Health Department is not seeing as many hospitalizations and deaths among these groups, he added. The rate of deaths among African-Americans currently is high here.
Testing rates have been high in recent weeks in the Asian group and in the Hispanic group, he said. The Health Department now has a rate for testing that is close to the ethnicity and race population rates in the county, he added.
Percent positivity is high in the Asian and Hispanic groups, he said. In general, the percent positivity rate is declining here.
Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy health officer, said Wyandotte County is remaining under the state’s Ad Astra plan Phase 2 until at least June 8, although the state moved its order to guidance.
“As a team, we thought through this quite a bit, and we felt it was the right thing to do for consistency in our county,” Dr. Corriveau said. “We’re very concerned about surrounding counties, and how and when they will be moving, relaxing their regulations, whether that be an order or just issuing guidance rather than an order.”
She said Wyandotte County will still be evaluating its data until June 8. The date of the next phase or zone is still to be determined, and will rely on the data, according to Dr. Corriveau.
With the orders, they are trying to insure that they have a health care system with surge capacity, that they have a public health workforce to monitor and response to disease spread, and that they are protecting the most vulnerable people in the community, she said.
“We are striving to work in really ethical ways here,” she said, and striving to ensure protection for the people who need it the most.
Commissioner Gayle Townsend pointed out the median age for positive cases in some Zip Codes here was fairly young, 30 years old in 66101, 30 in 66102 and 35 in 66104. She said she would like to know the average or median age of those who died, including African-Americans.
A lot of people in the 30-year-old age group are not wearing masks, and some think that they can’t get the disease, she remarked.
Dr. Greiner said most deaths were occurring in the older age groups, and seeing a higher incidence in the young to middle age adults, with not as many deaths in that group. The death rate has been reduced in recent weeks, he said.
The UG will be working on videos to motivate people to change what they’re doing on health behaviors, including wearing masks, he said.
Other communities’ rules
On Thursday, Kansas City, Missouri, announced it was moving into a new phase at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, May 31, to remain in effect until July 5. In its new phase, Kansas City, Missouri, will increase the number of persons allowed in a building to 50 percent of the building’s occupancy. Those who can’t maintain social distancing will provide a six-foot space between areas of service and wear masks while providing services. Gatherings may be up to 50 percent of listed occupancy rates. More information on the new Kansas City, Missouri, rule is at https://www.kcmo.gov/home/showdocument?id=5225.
Nearby Johnson County, Kansas, decided on May 26, when the governor’s order for the Ad Astra plan went from mandatory to guidance, to not impose additional limits. Health officials there issued “strong recommendations” to follow the Ad Astra plan, however, their recommendation was guidance and not mandatory. More information on Johnson County is at https://www.jocogov.org/press-release/county-management/johnson-county-won%E2%80%99t-impose-additional-limits-strongly-recommends.
Easing restrictions on businesses
At the 7 p.m. UG Commission meeting May 28, Mayor David Alvey said he had been working with the zoning department on easing restrictions for businesses that want to offer outdoor dining or outdoor markets as a way to recover from COVID-19 losses.
Mayor Alvey said a proposed resolution and ordinance would be on the agenda for next Thursday.
Businesses could be allowed to use the public right-of-way, adjacent on-street parking and surplus off-street parking. Farmers’ markets, which are only allowed in commercial districts, could be allowed in all zone districts, and the mobile vending ordinance could be amended.
As restaurants have been restricted by the reopening plans on the number of people who can be inside the building, expanding to the outdoors could help some of them.
Gunnar Hand, the UG’s director of planning, said they would be looking at the zoning codes. Sidewalk cafes, retail businesses and open air markets could be included.
At 3:50 p.m. Thursday, the UG COVID-19 webpage reported a total of 1,308 total cumulative cases, with 73 deaths, 19 hospitalizations and 461 recoveries in Wyandotte County.
The UG’s COVID-19 information page is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
Wyandotte County is currently under the state’s Phase 2 plan at covid.ks.gov.
The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-FAQ_5.19.2020_Final.pdf.
Additional guidelines from the governor’s office about Phase 2 are at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/AdAstraUpdate519.pdf.
The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.