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Outbreak eclipses all records

Staff writer

An unprecedented 40 new COVID-19 cases in two days, including cases at St. Luke Living Center, may be linked to a growing unwillingness to report recent contacts to county health officials.

“I don’t know if I can go so far as saying it’s a contributing factor,” county health nurse Diedre Serene said Tuesday. “I think there probably are a lot of things contributing to a rise in cases. The more movement people are doing, the more we’re going to see it. Not identifying contacts may just be one piece of it.”

Having people who still are attending social gatherings, not social distancing and not wearing masks are factors, and there also is no guarantee that everyone remains in quarantine or isolation even when directed to, Serene said.

“My guess is that the quarantine and isolation is not always followed,” she said.

A record 30 new cases were reported Monday followed by 10 new cases reported Tuesday. The 10 reported Tuesday were the only people tested that day.

After its first COVID case was reported April 1, it took Marion County 128 days, until Aug. 6, to reach 58 cases total. The previous record number of cases in a seven-day period was 23 between Oct. 23 and Oct. 29.

The county’s total now is almost 10 times that, with 230 reported cases. That raises the county to a rate of 19.4 cases per 1,000 people. There has been a whopping increase of 4.9 cases per 1,000 in the last seven days, easily qualifying Marion County as a federal “red zone.”

Red zones are areas where the number of cases per 1,000 people has increased by at least 1.0 in seven days. The county has been a declared red zone for nearly a month, with just one day since Oct. 6 where the seven-day change was below 1.0.

The seven-day positivity rate now has increased to 34.3%, and the positivity rate is up to 31.3% for two weeks. KDHE considers a positivity rate about 10% to be a disaster outbreak.

Tuesday’s cases were identified as two people 60 years or older, two people between 40 and 49 years old, three people between 30 and 39, two between 18 and 29, and one child younger than 18. Eight of the cases were women, and two were men.

Cases reported Monday were not divided by age or gender despite obvious public interest in ages because of the relevance of cases at St. Luke’s nursing home.

Eleven new cases were reported Friday, including a teenage girl, four women in their 20s, a woman in her 30s, two women in their 40s, a man in his 50s, a woman in her 80s, and a woman in her 90s.

Thursday’s reported cases were for a teenage boy, a man in his 50s, two men in their 60s, and a woman in her 60s.

Cases from Oct. 28 included a woman in her 20s and a man in his 60s.

In the past seven days, the county has reported a record 58 new cases.

A total of eight employees and five residents of St. Luke Living Center were included in totals for Friday and Monday, according to St. Luke Hospital CEO Jeremy Ensey. Two of the five residents who tested positive and one staff member were hospitalized. One remained hospitalized Tuesday.

As of Friday, visitation at the nursing home was prohibited. Residents who tested positive were put into isolation, all 29 living center residents were put into quarantine, and staff members who tested positive were sent home.

The 13 total cases qualify the living center as an active cluster. The nursing home will continue to be listed as such until it has fewer than five active cases for 14 days.

Staff testing done Tuesday came back negative. Residents again will be tested today, Ensey said.

Testing will continue after today.

“Our nursing home has had ongoing communication with the residents, family and staff from the beginning,” Ensey said. “All of our staff has done a tremendous job during this pandemic.”

St. Luke is the second nursing home in the county to have a confirmed outbreak. Earlier, Bethesda Home in Goessel officially was designated as having a cluster of new cases.

It remains on the active cluster list.

While the virus may create only mild and even undetectable symptoms in some young people, it can be deadly among older populations.

Last modified Nov. 4, 2020

 

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