By Adam Strunk
Harvey County went from no active cases of COVID-19 at the start of the month to 12 by June 24.
The health department announced four new cases Wednesday on the heels of three new cases Monday, making for 11 positive cases popping up in the county in five days.
For Wednesday’s new cases, two were females in their 40s. One is at home and the other hospitalized. One person is a male in his 20s, and the other was a female in her 20s, who works at Kansas Christian Home.
The cause of contraction for the two patients in their 40s is still being investigated. The two people in their 20s had close contact with family units with known active cases according to the county press release. The man had already been in quarantine after coming in contact with a known case.
As for the employee of Kansas Christian Home, the county said she did not have direct contact with residents or care staff.
“However, the health department will continue to work in conjunction with Kansas Christian Home to determine if additional testing of individuals is needed,” the release stated.
Cases now range in age groups from teenagers to a woman in her 70’s. Two residents are currently hospitalized.
“We recognize there may be worry of community spread or a cluster of cases,” Harvey County Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said. “Our current information does not lead us to that conclusion at this time, but we will continue to monitor. Multiple recent cases include known transmission through family households. We’ll emphasize again that the precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not just for you but for your loved ones, as well.”
Those precautions include wearing a cloth mask in public places, staying six feet apart from people, practicing social distancing and washing your hands.
Harvey County has had 28 COVID-19 cases to date, including 24 confirmed and four probable cases. There are 12 known active cases in Harvey County. Two individuals are hospitalized.
There have been 1,355 tests conducted in Harvey County.
“It affects everyone,” Redington said. “COVID-19 is not gone, it is still very active as we see in Harvey County. Everyone be careful when they’re out and about.”
At an earlier press conference on Tuesday, Redington strongly recommended healthy people wear masks in public, repeating the same medical consensus reached by the Centers for Disease Control as well as peer-reviewed studies across the country.
“CDC strongly recommends masks,” she said. “We’re going to strongly recommend them.”
Redington at the press conference Tuesday said that the county had traced no cases back to the large rallies aimed at addressing the use of force by police held in recent weeks in Newton.
She said some of the infections came from close contacts with existing COVID-19 patients who were already self quarantining. She said the health department believes that other patients got it during travel in other states, such as Texas and Arizona.
The state now requires those traveling from Arkansas, Arizona, Alabama and Maryland to self quarantine.
Currently, if they have symptoms, people can get tests for COVID-19 at their doctor’s office or at Hesston Pharmacy.
Health Ministries offers testing for those who are asymptomatic.
Redington said just because a person gets a negative test doesn’t mean the virus won’t show up later.
“Know you can develop symptoms very easily,” she said.
Redington said the county continues to contact trace and have contacts quarantine when they need to.
“Your health department is on it, and we’re working weekends and after hours,” she said.
The recent surge–Harvey County’s previous high water mark for active cases in May was a quarter of what it is now–comes as local governments have relaxed all restrictions on gathering sizes and business operations. Harvey County had seen multiple weeks of no active cases before they started ticking upward in mid June. The uptick follows traditional times of gathering, such as Memorial Day and Mother’s Day, which Redington said could in part still drive new cases. Neighboring Sedgwick County is seeing a surge of infections, with 41 new infections announced on June 23, the largest single day amount for the county, which now has 310 active cases out of its 937 total cases.
Statewide, there most recently were 12,970 reported cases with 261 deaths.
Currently, gathering limitations are no longer in place, and the county is in the Phase Out phase of its reopening plan.
With the Fourth of July coming up, Redington gave recommendations for people.
She said it’s safest to conduct the celebration outside, encourage social distancing, and not be offended if people are bringing their own spoons to a pot luck.
She said it would be smart for people to sanitize or wash their hands before going through any food line and then again afterwards, if they are going through a food line with shared utensils.
She said on Tuesday, looking at the county’s current gathering criteria, there’s not a need to move back on re-opening phases.
“When many of the factors are going up at the same time, we’ll be looking at going to the commission and talking about moving back to Phase 3,” she said.