Wyandotte County will continue in Phase 3 of the Ad Astra reopening plan, according to Dr. Allen Greiner, chief health officer of Wyandotte County.
Dr. Greiner made his remarks at the 5 p.m. July 30 meeting of the Unified Government, a remote meeting held on Zoom.
“The 7-day positive rolling average has come down in the past week,” Juliann Van Liew, Unified Government Health Department director, said about the COVID-19 positive rate.
The trend is very encouraging, she said. Jackson and Johnson counties are seeing different trends, with their rates not coming down like Wyandotte County’s has in the past few weeks, she said.
Dr. Greiner said it is possible that Wyandotte County’s downward trend came about because of the mask order that went into effect July 1 here. In Phase 3, gatherings cannot exceed 45 people where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.
While deaths in general have been declining over several weeks, Wyandotte County has had two COVID-19 deaths in the past day, Van Liew said. Some deaths recently have been related to outbreaks in long-term care facilities, she said. Overall, deaths remain relatively low, according to Dr. Greiner.
The percent positivity rate is still around 20 percent, which is higher than they want to see it, she added. Very few places here are doing testing on persons who don’t have symptoms, she added.
Van Liew also said COVID-19 case rates here among Hispanics are four times more than non-Hispanics, which is a concern for the Health Department. Testing has been increased in the Hispanic community through some outreach programs.
Also, Van Liew said the Health Department is significantly behind on contact tracing, lagging about 800 cases behind.
This is not unique, as almost every county in the metropolitan area is behind on contact tracing, she said.
In the past four to five weeks, the Health Department has hired two to three contact tracers every week, she said. It takes time for training, she added. About 15 people are now working full-time at contact tracing here, with about 10 to 15 volunteers helping, she added.
Being behind on contact tracing is a problem, since it’s only effective when it’s done soon, she said. The contacts of COVID-19 patients are likely to have been out in the community a while, if they are not contacted quickly.
Last week the UG Health Department held a contact tracing blitz, with 15 others from other UG departments joining in on July 14 to 15 to try to catch up with cases. Next week, they plan to do another contact tracing blitz from Aug. 3 to 7, she said.
Currently, the Health Department can do contact tracing of about 65 per day, she said. She said they don’t want to outsource the work because 40 percent of all traced cases report having a difficult time accessing food or cleaning supplies while quarantined, and the Health Department is helping people with this.
Dr. Greiner said the Health Department has found new pathways to get data abot hospitalizations. While some of the data sources from the federal level changed recently, the local hospitals are having regular meetings and are discussing their hospitalization rates, and have shared them with him. The Health Department is able to separate the Wyandotte County cases from the other cases for the statistical totals, he said.
It’s currently believed there is adequate hospital bed capacity right now, he said.
At the University of Kansas Health System, there were 35 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, up from 34 on Wednesday, with 11 patients in the intensive care unit, up from nine on Wednesday, and five patients on ventilators, the same as Wednesday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System.
He said it has been scientifically proven that masks work to stop the spread of the virus. Dr. Hawkinson noted that they are trying to change the culture at “warp speed.” He said that washing hands, wearing a mask and socially distancing work to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Dr. Hawkinson said they are much better off than three or four months ago, with a vaccination in process, and clinical trials to begin in a few weeks here.
On Thursday, Wyandotte County reported an increase of 102 COVID-19 cases, a cumulative total of 4,325 cases at 1 p.m. There were 95 COVID-19 cumulative deaths, an increase of two since Wednesday.
The UG Commission meeting with the COVID-19 report is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJFl-BSfefI.
The KU doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/652796395338661
The Wyandotte County school start order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
Residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information or call 311 for more information
The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.