• Last modified 734 days ago (Aug. 5, 2020)


U.S. warns of rapidly rising COVID total, now at 56

Staff writers

UPDATE — Two more cases Tuesday brought to 56 the number of COVID cases in Marion County. The new cases were a man and a woman, both in their 30s. Confirmation of a 54th case, a woman in her 50s, came Monday. A 53rd case, a woman in her 30s, was disclosed Sunday evening. A woman in her 20s was announced Friday, and a man in his 50s was announced after press time Wednesday. The county's infection rate per 1,000 residents now stands at 4.7. Health officials report that five county residents, one of them hospitalized, are currently exhibiting symptoms or being treated. The original story from our print editions follows.

As the total number of COVID-19 has swelled to 50, Marion County has been declared by the federal government a “red zone” and a dangerous hotspot for the disease.

Being a red zone means that more than 1 new case per 1,000 people has been detected in the past week.

Marion County is one of 13 in the state listed in the red zone, as is Kansas as a whole, according to a state report this week.

The latest victim — a woman in her 50s — was confirmed by the county health department to be the county’s 50th case Tuesday. Hers was the area’s 15th COVID-19 case in the past week, and 39th since county commissioners overturned Governor Laura Kelly’s statewide mask order.

Cases involving a teenage boy, two women in their 40s, and a woman in her 60s all were confirmed Monday. Two involving teenage boys were confirmed Saturday, and one involving a woman in her 20s was confirmed Sunday.

It was Thursday, however, that was the county’s worst day for confirmed cases. A record five COVID-19 cases were reported that day. Included were two men in their 50s and 60s as well as three women, one each in her 60s, 70s, and 80s.

As of Monday, 12 cases remained active in the county, according to county nurse Diedre Serene. “Active” means the victims continue to exhibit symptoms or are still undergoing treatment.

The worst development of the week, however, might have been Serene’s confirmation July 22 of community spread of the virus. When community spread is confirmed, it means no single source of infection can be identified and patients are assumed to have contracted the virus after day-to-day interactions with people in the local community who did not know they were sick.

Urging sick people to stay home or requiring only sick people to wear masks stops working when community spread is confirmed, and experts strongly recommend face masks be required in public when six feet of distance is not possible.

A mask doesn’t protect the wearer. Instead it protects those around the wearer from being infected by virus that is breathed out.

Marion County’s rate of infection was 4.18 cases per 1,000 residents — 70.1% higher than a week ago.

As of the latest statewide totals available, Kansas’ hardest-hit counties were Ford (Dodge City), with 61.7 cases per 1,000; Seward (Liberal), 50.4; Finney (Garden City), 44.6; and Wyandotte (Kansas City), 25.9.

Among neighboring counties or counties frequently visited by Marion County residents, Lyon (Emporia) had the highest infection rate, at 18.3 per 1,000 residents. Sedgwick (Wichita) was next, 7.4; Saline (Salina), 5.6; McPherson, 4.4; and Harvey (Newton), 4.2.

Other regional counties all had lower infection rates than Marion: Reno (Hutchinson), 3.5; Butler (El Dorado), 2.8; Chase (Cottonwood Falls), 2.3; Dickinson (Herington and Abilene), 1.9; and Morris (Council Grove), 1.2.

Despite being lower in terms of infection rate than several other counties, Sedgwick had the third most new COVID-19 cases in Kansas the past three weeks, according to President Donald Trump’s administrative task force.

UPDATE — New data, released before the latest case was disclosed Monday, indicate Marion County may avoid the "red zone" list this coming week. However, neighboring Chase County had a huge increase in cases over the weekend and is one of the hottest hot zones in the state.

Last modified Aug. 5, 2020