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COVID eclipses record for 5th straight week

With fewer vaccinated, county outbreak exceeds state average

Staff writer

With less than half its eligible residents fully vaccinated, Marion County is in the grips of a new COVID-19 outbreak that has surpassed last year’s record pace for five consecutive weeks and appears to be worsening.

New data from Kansas Department of Health and Environment reveal startling trends.

Statewide, more than half of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, and COVID infection rates generally remain below last year’s records.

In Marion County, however, new infections are up 14.2% since Thanksgiving.

The county recorded 48 new cases, up 11 from the previous year, in the week that ended Nov. 28.

The following week, it recorded 66 new cases, up from 40 in the same period last year.

For the week that ended Dec. 12, it logged 74 new cases, up 4. The week that ended Dec. 19 saw 63 new cases, up 9. And the week that ended Sunday recorded at least 66 new cases, up 22, with final data for the last six of those days still not in.

All in all, Marion County has recorded 515 new cases since Halloween, compared with 451 new cases during what previously had been thought to be the peak period of COVID-19 infection last year.

The county health department reported 112 people with active cases of COVID Monday, up from 93 a week ago.

Statewide, 58.9% of residents age 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine. In Marion County, that percentage lags at 54.6%.

Only 48.7% of eligible Marion County residents are fully vaccinated while statewide the percentage is 51.0%, according to KDHE data.

KDHE tallies new cases by the date on which symptoms first appear. This can result in a delay of up to six days before final numbers for each date are logged.

Despite the lack of final numbers, Marion County already has recorded 22 more new cases in the past week than it did in the same week a year ago. And that number is likely to increase.

Last year, weekly peaks occurred in the weeks immediately after Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

Moreover, although Marion County has seen at least 20 cases of the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, it has yet to record its first case of the more virulent omicron version, which has been sweeping through Europe and has appeared in McPherson and Sedgwick counties.

Final data indicate Marion County set a new single-day record for new COVID-19 cases with 25 on Nov. 29, the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

The previous record had been 18, set on Nov. 2, 2020, and equaled on Dec. 16, 2020, and Nov. 4 of this year.

Since Halloween of this year, double-digit numbers of new cases have been recorded daily on 24 dates — from Nov. 1 through 8; Nov. 10, 16, and 29; Dec. 6 through 9; Dec. 12 through 15; and Dec. 20 through 23, with final data not yet in for Dec. 21 and later.

During the same period last year, double-digit days occurred only 18 times, but 11 more such days occurred between Dec. 26 and Jan. 17, when last year’s fall and winter surge of new cases began to diminish.

With Marion County rates surpassing last year’s by an increasing margin and the omicron variant now present in nearby counties, the prospect for coming weeks has experts worried.

The impact already has been felt on hospitals in the region with rising admissions to intensive care units, according to KDHE data.

Staffing shortages and shortages of available beds already have resulted in at least seven ambulance calls from Marion County being diverted to more distant hospitals this month.

Numerous additional ambulance runs that normally would have gone to nearer hospitals have gone instead to more distant hospitals without specifically being diverted there, according to analysis of emergency dispatch logs maintained by the newspaper.

Last modified Jan. 6, 2022

 

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