County now among worst of worst for COVID; 4 of 5 school districts rated as ‘clusters’
COVID-19 continues to exact a disproportionately high toll on Marion County, according to new data from state and county health officials.
Two nursing homes and all but one school district in the county now are included on the state’s list of COVID-19 “clusters.” Of the 33 schools in the state listed as clusters, 12% of them are in Marion County, and an additional 42% of them are schools in adjacent counties that are frequent sports opponents of Marion County schools. Combined, those are more than half of all school clusters in the state.
Marion schools led the way with the most new cases in the past 14 days — a total of 39. There also were 14 in Hillsboro schools, 13 in Goessel schools, and 10 at Peabody-Burns High School. Also on the cluster list are schools in such places as Canton-Galva, Inman, Lindsborg (Smoky Valley), and Towanda (Circle).
Salem Home in Hillsboro, with 11 new cases in 14 days, and Westview Manor in Peabody, with 14 cases, also are included on the list along with nursing homes in Lindsborg, Marquette, McPherson, Moundridge, Newton, Salina, and Whitewater.
As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, the county’s overall infection rate since the pandemic began stands at 26.52%, nearly two full points higher than the statewide rate of 24.60%, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment data.
That’s especially significant because the overall infection rate in Kansas is now the highest in the United States, according to new reports from the University of Kansas Medical Center.
That makes Marion County among the worst of the worst.
In comparison, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and ‘19 infected just 8.3% of Marion County residents — less than one-third as many county residents.
Spanish flu had a much higher lethality rate — 4.2% of those infected. More than a century of medical advances have made COVID-19 have a lower lethality rate — just 1.2% in the county.
However, the much higher infection rate means the two pandemics have claimed nearly the same portion of county lives — 0.35% with Spanish flu and 0.31% with COVID-19. And final numbers for COVID still are not in, not only because the pandemic is continuing but also because it takes several months for deaths to officially be recorded as related to COVID.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, the county had 389 active cases of COVID compared with 399 on Monday, according to the county health department.
That means 3.29% of county residents — one out of every 30 people — are under isolation orders despite new rules shortening isolation periods to just five days.
As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, a total of 3,136 county residents had been confirmed as having contracted the disease since the pandemic began.
More than a third of them — 1,164 — contracted it since Nov. 1. That’s 61.2% more than contracted the disease during the same period a year ago, which at the time had been considered the peak period for COVID tranmission.
The number of new cases recorded daily has exceeded last year’s record for 11 consecutive days starting Jan. 10, and data for all but one of those days still is regarded as preliminary and subject to upward revision.
New data released Friday once again revised the single-day record, set on Jan. 18, upward to 55 new cases that day.
The second highest day on record was the day before, with 46 new cases, also revised upward on Friday.
Daily new case totals have dropped since then but continued to break the year-ago record until Jan. 20.
Even with not every case still counted, the total number of new cases for the week that ended Sunday stood at 187, nearly four times the total for the same period last year. Friday's report reflected an increase of 10 cases reported during that period.
From Jan. 10 through Friday, a total of at least 452 county residents — 3.82% of the county’s total population — came down with COVID-19.
Bad as these numbers are, they probably understate the true nature of the pandemic. Not only are case totals frequently increased as many as two weeks after they are initially reported, health officials report that residents have become extremely reluctant to report COVID symptoms, even when infections are verified with home tests.
Results from newly available home tests are not included in these totals.