By Adam Strunk
New cases outpaced recoveries this week as Harvey County added 69 new COVID-19 cases, moving the county’s total to 55 active cases as of Oct. 27. In total, 554 people have been infected. Eight have died so far.
Fifty-six active cases serves as the high-water mark for infections set on Oct. 11.
“Everybody needs to keep wearing their mask, hands washed and stay distanced,” Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said.
In total, the county averaged nearly 10 new cases a day over the last week. The health department is monitoring a cluster of cases at the Kidron Bethel retirement facility, where six residents and three staff members were indicated to be infected, following facility-wide testing after a staff member tested positive.
The health department is monitoring a number of other active clusters, one within the Newton Fire/EMS Department, which amounts to five cases, one at Hesston College and one at Bethel College.
Bethel is down to six active cases; 127 total staff members and students have been infected.
It takes 28 days of no infections for the health department to declare a cluster inactive. That’s a feat Redington said is hard to accomplish on a college campus.
Despite the continuing increase of cases, Redington said county health indicators, which it uses to make decisions on where to move in its COVID-19 reopening plan, remain good.
Those criteria include the amount of spread in a community but also the number of recent deaths and hospitalizations and the availability of personal protective equipment and the ability of the health department staff to keep up with contact tracing.
Newton Medical Center reported last week that it continued to see about two to three hospitalizations regularly with COVID-19 and had the capacity to handle larger numbers.
On Oct. 27, the Hutchinson Regional Hospital System put out a press release, calling on people to wear masks, distance and wash their hands and do anything they can to slow the spread. Reno County has been hit hard by the virus in recent weeks.
“We are seeing the highest numbers of COVID patients of the pandemic right now in Reno County,” the release said. “Positive test results are up, and COVID hospitalizations are at a higher rate than before. Our positive test rates are very high, and nothing but careful attention to the ways we behave will bring them down.”
More than 20 percent of those tested in Reno County in the last week had COVID-19, according to state health department numbers. In Harvey County, that number was 9.45 percent.
Statewide, Kansas is seeing some of the largest daily totals of new cases since the infection began.
Kansas now has 78,676 cases and 976 deaths as of Tuesday; 226,000 total Americans have died of the disease.