Hesston, Halstead School Districts identified with COVID clusters

The Health Department released information showing clusters of COVID-19 cases present in students in the Hesston and the Halstead School Districts.

Both clusters included seven students. The Hesston District Website lists 16 active cases in the district, 33 additional students quarantined, and in total 56 COVID-19 related absences. In total since the year began The Hesston School District has had 21 active cases.

The uptick caused the district to move to the yellow designation of its COVID-19 response plan.

“We have asked specific grade levels and classrooms where risk is highest to wear masks while we are seeing positive cases,” Superintendent Ben Proctor stated. “We will continue to communicate this request and ask everyone to demonstrate a receptiveness to our targeted mask approach, understanding our intent is to keep our kids in school and engaged in activities.”

The Halstead District website lists 10 total active cases, three at the middle school and seven at the high school.

The news follows active COVID-19 cases for Harvey County increased by 36 to 149 in one day, Aug. 31.

There were 46 new cases added to the county dashboard on that day and 10 recoveries.

Of those new cases, 22 were aged 19 or younger, according to demographic data from the county. Fifteen were between 10 and 19 years of age. Seven cases were under the age of 10.

Of the 99 new COVID-19 cases the county saw the week prior (Aug. 24 through 30) a third were aged under 19 years old.

The pattern of youth COVID-19 cases is something the health department predicted previously, recommending nursing homes close off visits with an anticipated spike in COVID-19 cases following the start of school. Currently, no school district in Harvey County has implemented masking of students, as recommended by the health department, as well as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control. The topic of masks in schools is one of current debates at local board of education meetings, with parents arguing for and against the health practice.

The Aug. 31 total of 149 active cases is more than four times the amount of cases the county started the month with. It’s the highest amount of county cases since Jan. 25.

At the time, a vaccine wasn’t widely available, and cases affected the majority of the county population. Today, cases remain mostly with those unwilling or unable to get vaccinated.

From Aug. 24 to Aug. 30, 85.8 percent of new cases occurred within unvaccinated people.

The number matches with months of local county data. Since May, 431 out of 506 confirmed cases have come within the unvaccinated population (85.2 percent).

Those local numbers match an Aug. 24 CDC report that stated people were five times more likely to contract the virus if unvaccinated. The same report stated unvaccinated people were 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than their vaccinated peers.

One county resident was hospitalized for COVID-19 at press time. Six were earlier in the day, and it’s unclear the nature of the five’s releases.

In total, 61.7 percent of eligible residents, those over age 12, have received at least one shot. Fifty-five percent of that group is completely vaccinated.

Approximately 252 residents received their first vaccine this week.

Total vaccination of all residents (eligible and non-eligible, alike) amounts to 46.5 percent of county residents. That’s a percentage point higher than overall state numbers but 6.5 percentage points behind the U.S. as a whole.

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