LMH reports another COVID death; overall case numbers start to decline in Douglas County

LMH Health has reported the death of another COVID patient, but the county is starting to see signs of a slowdown in cases of the virus.

Information about the death, which the hospital said occurred on Sunday, was scant. The death didn’t show up on the latest fatality county compiled by Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, which continues to list 94 total Douglas County deaths tied to COVID. LMH Health treats patients who aren’t Douglas County residents, so it is possible the death won’t show up on the county’s totals, and there also are delays in deaths being added to the official fatality count.

Public health officials did release several other figures on Monday, and most showed a decline in the prevalence the virus locally. Those statistics included:

• 35.43 new cases are being added per day, based on a 14-day moving average. That’s down from an average of 39.36 that was taken from Aug. 21 through Sept. 3. That represents about a 10% reduction in case activity level.

• The number of reported cases on Monday was particularly low with 13 new cases, down from 51 on Sunday.

• The number of active cases stands at 771, which is drop from previous days. The county reported 840 active cases on Friday. County health leaders have said they will start advocating for a mask mandate and possibly other restrictions if the total number of active cases gets above 1,000.

• On Monday, 17 inpatients at LMH Health had tested positive for COVID. Three are in the intensive care unit. The average age is just under 67 years old. LMH said 73% of the current patients are unvaccinated or their vaccination status can’t be determined.

The University of Kansas continues to release numbers from its testing program, which is producing relatively few positive COVID cases. For the week ending Sept. 15, KU conducted 468 tests of students and staff, with 10 of those coming back positive.

A KU spokeswoman on Monday provided additional detail about how KU gathers it testing numbers. She said the testing data reported by KU primarily reflects testing done on the KU campus and also conducted at LMH Health on individuals who are either students or staff of the university.

She said KU does expect there are some positive test cases involving university members that don’t show up in the KU numbers because those individuals have chosen to get tested at locations other than on campus or at LMH Health.

KU does have data on the number of students living in student housing that have been vaccinated. That number is at 81%, unchanged from the last update. KU also has good data on the number of student housing residents who are in quarantine or isolation at any given moment. On Sept. 9, the last date for which information was released, there were four student housing residents in quarantine and three in isolation.

KU doesn’t yet have a good estimate of how many of its students in total — those living on and off campus — are vaccinated. State law prohibits universities from requiring a proof of vaccination form, but KU has been running a voluntary program where students can become entered for prizes if they upload their proof of vaccination form.

KU saw a surge of uploaded forms near the start of classes, but the numbers have dwindled in recent weeks. The university reported that on Friday 11,947 students had downloaded proof of vaccination forms. That represents 53.5% of the Lawrence student population. That is up from 50.7% on Sept. 3.

KU leaders believe the total vaccination rate for students is closer to the 81% that is showing up in student housing numbers than the 53% showing up in the overall total, but KU hopes to get better data on the total vaccination rate.

“We know that we haven’t yet reached all students, and it can be difficult to gain students’ attention to get them to take a voluntary action of any kind,” Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokeswoman for KU, said. “We know that there are vaccinated students who haven’t yet uploaded cards, and we will continue to work to spread the word about the program as winners will be selected through the month of October. We expect card uploads to incrementally increase throughout the program.”


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