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Surge in COVID cases linked to prom

Weekly total returns to high levels of 21/2 months ago

Staff writer

A COVID-19 outbreak in Hillsboro over the last week pushed the county’s weekly number of cases to 28 — the highest total since early February.

Several of the cases appear to be from exposure at the Hillsboro High School prom.

Hillsboro district superintendent Max Heinrichs said 12 students have active cases of COVID-19, and as many as nine could have contracted the virus during prom.

“Could it be attributed to prom? Possibly,” Heinrichs said. “We ran prom through same protocols we run our school.”

Three students were diagnosed with COVID before prom, most a few days afterward, and one Tuesday morning, he said.

Heinrichs said the district has not made changes to its operations and is still holding face-to-face classes.

“We’re doing what we said we would do,” Heinrichs said.

Heinrichs pointed out there are others in the community who recently contracted the virus, and said some of the students could have gotten it through work or other activities.

The 12 Hillsboro students are only part of an outbreak in Hillsboro, county medical consultant Don Hodson said. That outbreak accounts for most of the 28 new cases reported this week by the county health department.

The county reported Tuesday that 31 people remain in isolation, with none hospitalized.

“I know there’s probably a bunch of people who possibly didn’t get tested,” he said.

Hodson said the outbreak is not from general community spread. All it takes to cause an outbreak is one sick person in an enclosed area, he said.

Marion Elementary School posted on the district’s website Monday that an adult at the elementary school had been diagnosed with COVID that day.

Hodson said the case at the elementary school involved a nurse who lives outside the county.

The health department counts 1,068 COVID cases since the pandemic began. Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports 1,082 cases for Marion County.

“Don’t go in public if you’re sick,” Hodson said. “Maybe they didn’t know that’s what was going on.”

Noting that the Centers for Disease Control now recommends vaccinated people can skip wearing a mask outdoors, Hodson said he’s glad the weather is nice enough for people to be spending time outside.

He also predicted COVID will rise again when cold weather returns in late fall.

“Get your vaccine,” he said. “My thought is because there are so many vaccine-hesitant people we’ll have a major problem again.”

COVID vaccination clinics are scheduled for Friday and Tuesday, and by appointment only.

One-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be given at Friday’s clinic and Moderna vaccines will be given at Tuesday’s clinic.

So far, the county has vaccinated 2,407 people. That number does not reflect vaccines administered by pharmacies, Hillsboro Hospital, and St. Luke Clinic.

Appointments can be made by calling the health department at (620) 382-2550 or by going to the county website and signing up online on the health department page.

The health department now gives vaccines to anyone 18 and older, whether or not they live in the county.

Last modified April 28, 2021

 

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