Cases rise as holiday, contagious variant loom

COVID-19 cases have now dropped below 100 according to County numbers.

By Adam Strunk

Active COVID-19 cases increased by 20 percent this week, as schools let out and families prepare to gather for Christmas.

The county saw 190 new cases diagnosed, an average of 27 per day from Dec. 14 to 20. There are now 181 active cases. Six residents are hospitalized. The county also marked four new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total of local lives claimed by the disease to 95. One in 358 county residents has died from the disease since it first reached the county 21 months ago.

The increase followed news last week from NMC Health that it was nearing capacity, in part due to rising numbers of COVID-19 patients. The hospital is seeing admittances from across the state as other hospitals fill on top of local COVID-19 patients. Nearly all of them were unvaccinated, according to Chief Medical Officer Charles Craig.

The situation on the ground at NMC Health is the same as other hospitals across the state.

The Kansas Reflector Reported that KU Medical Center in Kansas City has experienced a sharp increase in cases, with nearly all cases being people who weren’t vaccinated.

On December 19 there were 1,226 Kansans hospitalized with COVID-19 this year compared to last year’s rate of 1,565.

This week, health officials also noted the presence of the Omicron variant of the disease in the State of Kansas. While initial science hasn’t shown the variant to be deadlier than past variations. According to a recently released study by the British government—where the variant hit earlier—estimates are that the variant is 25 to 50 percent more contagious.

This week, it became the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, resulting in 73 percent of new cases.

Nationally, the infection count passed 50 million since the pandemic began. The death count passed 800,000.

The Biden Administration announced this week plans to purchase 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests, which people can order and have shipped through the U.S. Postal Service to facilitate more at-home testing to combat the perceived threat of the Omicron variant.

The plan also includes dispatching another 1,000 medically trained U.S. Service members to areas hard hit by virus infections where medical resources are strained.

The CDC states that the best defense against COVID-19, as well as the variant, continues to be vaccination as well as a booster shot.

On the vaccination front, approximately 150 people in the county received their first vaccine dose last week.

Locally, 64.3 of all eligible residents and 60.7 percent of total county residents have received at least one dose.

Of new cases, 82 percent occurred within the county’s unvaccinated population.

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