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COVID cases spike in county
But, vaccinations lessening the impact
Living with covid - Tribune.jpg

Although far from the peak at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barton County is seeing a spike in the number of positive cases, said county Health Director Karen Winkelman in giving an update to the County Commission Monday morning.

As of Sunday, they tallied 70 over the pasts two weeks. Having 38 in one week is high looking at the recent trends,

But, “these are very small compared to that back in November” when there were 50-60 every day, she said. “The vaccine plays a big part in this,” she said.

Through last week, for residents age 12 and up in Barton County, 40.3% had been vaccinated. “So we’re still low,” Winkelman said.

Children under the age of 12 could be allowed to get the vaccine by September, she said. But, it could be December.

Other COVID information:

• The county has approximately 30 residents in isolation, which means they are infectious, she said. But, “the quarantine member is very fluid. We have to still come up with that as we talk to these cases,” she said.

• The Health Department has given over 11,000 doses of COVID vaccines. “Our number of administered doses continues to go up weekly,” 

Last week, they gave out 122 doses. The two weeks previous were 57 and 93 respectively.

She said they continue to offer all three vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson.

This is only her department and doesn’t take into account the vaccines given at pharmacies or other facilities.

• Even though there are known to be around a dozen cases of the delta variant in Barton County, she said she doesn’t have a breakdown as to the new cases and if they are the more transmissible mutation.

• Statewide, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s COVID tracking website has been down since Friday night, so it’s been difficult to get state information, she said. 

Other topics:

• Testing – As far as testing, “we have gone to just testing you just when your symptomatic,” she said. This is because there’s been some confusion about quarantine requirements.

The bottom line, she said, is that KDHE recommended 14 days for Barton County. And, that is what she is sticking with since it is also applicable to delta variant.

Her office had typically been testing about five people a week on average. But, in the past week, they’ve tested 36 “so our drive through has been busy.”

Speaking of variants, “I think we have to realize, too, that the more cases that we see, the more ability for that virus to mutate,” she said. “That’s why we’re starting to see these variants.”

This isn’t unexpected, she said. It is the same with any virus.

• Mask wearing – “We’ve been getting a lot of questions again about masks and the precautions that you need to take,” she said. She referred to comments made by KDHE Director Dr. Lee Norman last Thursday. 

“He said, as far as him personally, he looks at risk-based decision making,” she said. If he’s going to be outside, not in big groups of people, he less likely not going to wear a mask. But when inside, in close proximity to others where there’s a higher risk of transmission, he recommends wearing one.

• Reporting cases – timely reporting of positive COVID cases has been a continuing issue, she said. The delays in getting numbers and reports from testing facilities has caused problems and delay her department’s response.

“We had a situation last weekend where we could have probably averted more cases, but that positive result was not reported,” she said. It happened on a Saturday and her office was getting calls from the public, but they didn’t know anything. 

“I just can’t stress enough the importance,” she said. “It’s not like I’m trying to be a pain to these facilities, but the sooner we get alerted to the cases, the quicker we can respond.”

• Incentives – She was asked about offering incentives for people to get the vaccine.

“It is really against my public health morals, to be honest,” she said. “It’s something that we have available. It’s what we do. It’s my work. It’s available every day.”

And, she said, “how do you tell people who were vaccinated in the previous several months there’s nothing for them, but there is for those coming forward now.” She feels incentive funding would be better used for community outreach to get more people vaccinated.

• Outbreaks – There was an outbreak reported last Wednesday, she said. An outbreak is at least five individuals identified with symptoms within a 14-day period.

This was at Riverbed Assisted Living in Great Bend. Most of the residents had been vaccinated, so symptoms were mostly mild and there was only one hospitalization.

She is also working with another outbreak, this in a private industry. It will likely be announced Wednesday.  

• Winkelman said they are planning outreach clinics at Barton Community College in mid August when the students return to campus. She is still working on the details.

• USD 428 – She has not heard if USD 428 will require students to wear masks. “There’s a lot of discussion happening out there.”

There guidelines from the Centers for Disease and Control and KDHE that have recently been posted.

• Deaths still stand at 51, but that could have changed over the weekend.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Heard a COVID-19 update from Health Director Karen Winkelman.

• Let die a resolution changing the commission meeting dates from Mondays to Wednesday. The commission will discuss this and other meeting options in the future.

• Approved the Central Kansas Community Corrections revised behavioral health revised budget for Fiscal Year 2022.

The Kansas Department of Corrections provided an opportunity for agencies to apply for Behavioral Health funding to support services to lower revocation rates as a supplement to the regular grant, CKCC Director Amy Boxberger said. 

Although CKCC submitted a request of $55,350, KDOC allocated only $15,350, she said. Excluded was the proposed peer mentoring program, as KDOC denied any new positions in FY22. 

A revised budget was submitted to reflect changes in programming for behavioral health planning and vouchers for indigent offenders.   

• Approved a bid for the 2021 highway striping project.

Barton County accepted proposals for the project through July 13. Work includes centerline and edge line striping on approximately 101 miles of county roadway, said County Engineer Barry McManaman.  

Straight-Line Striping Inc. of Grand Island, Neb., submitted bids that provided for an estimated quantity of both white and yellow paint as well, as the glass beads needed to stripe. The actual quantities of each material used by the contractor will be paid for at the unit prices submitted.