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Updated Monday

County’s soaring COVID rate among region’s worst

Staff writer

With vaccination rates lagging, few wearing masks, and sports continuing despite classes being canceled, Marion County’s skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rate continues to soar well above state averages and is the highest among all but one adjoining county.

New data released Monday says a quarter of all Marion County residents have come down with COVID since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

The county’s 25.52% infection rate, the highest among all counties bordering it except Butler, is nearly two points higher than the state’s 23.68% rate. Just a week ago, the gap was much narrower.

During that week, county infection rates shattered all previous records.

A total of 399 active cases — one out of every 30 residents in the county — were under isolation orders as of 10 a.m. Monday.

That’s up 33 from a week ago. However, largely because isolation periods have been reduced to just five days, it’s down 66 from the record number under isolation orders Thursday.

Daily reports of new cases exceeded last year’s pandemic record on nine out of 11 consecutive days through Thursday, and totals for some of those days still aren’t complete.

The county’s daily record for new cases, which had been 18 until Nov. 28, now is 52, set Jan. 18.

For the week that ended Jan. 16, the county recorded 199 new cases, compared with just 62 during the same period last year earlier, during what had been thought to be the peak period for COVID infection.

Final numbers for the week that ended Sunday still are not in, but the total number of new cases already is nearly quadruple what it was a year ago — 169 this year vs. 48 a year ago.

Since Nov. 1, a total of 1,081 county residents — 9.14% of the total population — have been diagnosed with COVID, and the numbers may significantly understate the actual infection rate.

Because of delays in reporting, Kansas Department of Health and Environment typically revises daily totals upward for as many as 14 days after initially reporting them.

The numbers also do not include cases diagnosed with newly available home tests. County health officials confirm that they never once have been notified of a COVID case confirmed by a home test.

Despite the huge number of new cases, Hillsboro schools announced Friday that they no longer would be notifying parents if children might have been exposed at school or during school activities.

Overwhelmed, state health officials plan to suspend their similar so-called contact tracing Feb. 1.

Already, counties have begun winding down notification activities as well, partly because of public resistance to being placed under orders to isolate or quarantine.

All school districts except Hillsboro canceled classes for all or part of last week. In Hillsboro, classes continued, but all employees, students, and visitors were required to wear masks.

Despite cancellation of classes, sports events continued to be scheduled except at Centre, and reporters attending those events reported that few if any spectators were wearing masks.

With both KDHE and Hillsboro schools suspending contact tracing, spectators and students no longer will be informed if they were exposed by attending the events.

Peabody-Burns High School and Westview Manor nursing home in Peabody were added Wednesday to the state’s official list of COVID “clusters” because of outbreaks at those institutions.

Official updates of COVID statistics have been scaled back in recent weeks.

The next new numbers on COVID will not be released until 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. when KDHE will provide updated daily totals for onset of symptoms from confirmed COVID sufferers.

Marion County will not update the number in isolation until 10 a.m. Thursday.

One standard often used by school districts and others in determining whether to remain open is the percentage of positive results among community members being tested for COVID.

Generally, a rate of 10% or higher is considered to be a sign institutions such as schools should close.

Statewide, daily positivity rates have exceeded 10% every day since Nov. 23. They began exceeding 20% daily starting Dec. 28 and have exceeded 30% daily since Jan. 10.

In Marion County, positivity rates were higher than 50% for two of the past seven days. The overall positivity rate in the county for the week that ended Thursday was 37.9%. The statewide positivity rate during that sme period was 30.4%.

Just 49.6% of county residents age 5 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to KDHE data. Statewide, the number is 58.6%.

Data for last 14 days subject to upward revision.

Make your opinion known

Should Marion County reimpose a mask mandate? Should sports be canceled along with classes? Should officials ne required to continue notifying people who might have been infected? Or should the county simply let COVID-19 “burn itself out” and stop worrying about the pandemic?

We’re collecting public comments and invite you to share yours by completing the form below. A sampling may appear in the paper.

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Last modified Jan. 25, 2022

 

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