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Releasing COVID-19 info challenging
COVID-19 surge tracked at long-term care facility
Releasing COVID-19 info challenging
Interim Barton County Health Director Karen Winkelman, far left, and members of her Health Department staff process a COVID-19 test outside of the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning. The department is conducting the testing on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings. - photo by Dale Hogg

When it comes to releasing information on COVID-19 cases in Barton County, things are not simple, Interim County Health Director Karen Winkelman told county commissioners Monday morning.

She gave an update on the virus after a jump in positive cases over the weekend brought the county’s total to 23, including the virus-related death of a Great Bend resident last week. The spike was fueled in part by a surge at Medicalodges Great Bend, a local long-term care facility.

Statewide, the number of cases stood at 7,116 Monday afternoon, the latest number available, with 158 deaths.

“The job of public health is to protect the health,” she said. “But yet, when a positive COVID comes, you feel like you haven’t done enough.” 

Even so, she feels 23 is lower than what it could be.

Winkelman said the county has issued 236 isolation/quarantine orders. Of those, 88 are still active.

The county has come under fire on social media for not releasing more information to the public, she said. But, there are factors that make releasing data challenging.

“It’s hard to really give numbers and be current,” she said of the isolation orders. The KDHE gives some guidance as to how long people are in isolation and how long people are in quarantine.

However, the quarantine is based on whether or not the a contact lives in the same household as a positive case, she said. 

“We have so many things to look at,” she said. For example, the number of active orders seems relatively high for the number of cases in the county.

In a household where someone is positive, the family members in the household are in quarantine from the minute the positive result is known, she said. 

The family members are quarantined that whole time, she said. 

The person who tested positive is not considered non-infectious until 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and there is no fever and an improvement of symptoms. So basically the quarantine starts over again for the household contacts because they have to go by the last date that they potentially were infected. 

“It’s really hard to give numbers that are just really spot on, because that just varies as every day goes by,” Winkelman said. 

And, privacy is another factor, she said. “It’s really hard in public health.

“HIPAA plays a huge role in this,” she said. “The privacy of patient information is so important. And this has been a really difficult time for me.”

She has been in the medical field many years and now they’re able to share more information than they have in the past. “I still have my guard up.”

Protecting privacy and sharing what the public needs to know is balancing act, she said. “So, I see and hear a lot from the public about wanting names and wanting to know the area they are from. That kind of thing is really hard.”

Barton County records 23rd COVID-19 case

Barton County reported its 23rd positive case of COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon. This was a male from the City of Great Bend, County Public Information Officer Donna Zimmerman said. 

Of the 23 cases, 11 remain in isolation or quarantine, the remaining have resulted in sufficient symptom recovery to be released.

The breakdown of gender is as follows:

• Male - seven 

• Female - 16 

The breakdown of residence is as follows:

• Claflin - three

• Ellinwood - four

• Great Bend - 14

• Rural Great Bend - one

• Rural northeast corner of county - one

County’s community COVID-19 testing started Tuesday

The Barton County Health Department, in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Began its drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic Tuesday. It runs from  9 a.m. to noon under the awning on north side of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, 1416 Kansas Ave. in Great Bend.

The maximum they can test per day is 20 and these individuals must be symptomatic and make an appointment, but there is no charge for the tests, Interim Health Director Karen Winkelman said. Testing will be provided on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings until further notice.

Specimens will go to the Kansas Department of Health and Environmental lab and results will be available in two to three days. The test will be administered using a nasal pharyngeal swab.

At the time of the test, the individual will be handed an isolation order, Winkelman said. He or she will be asked to stay home until the test results come back.  

For more information call the Health Department, 620-793-1902.