As COVID-19 cases spike, Douglas County reduces mass gathering limit from 45 to 15

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Nov. 12 COVID-19 update from the health department

Douglas County saw its highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began with 112 new cases Thursday, and the county’s health officer ordered mass gatherings limited to 15 people to help fight the spread of the virus.

In a Thursday press release, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health said Douglas County, like many counties in Kansas and in the region, has experienced an increase in cases in the past two weeks. The county’s 14-day average test positivity rate is at 13.8%, up from 4.8% in late October. The county is also seeing an average of 44 new cases per day, nearly matching the county’s previous high of about 47 in early September, when thousands of people were tested at the start of the University of Kansas’ fall semester.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Nov. 12 14-day moving average COVID-19 test positivity rate in Douglas County

“We believe this spike is due to people letting their guards down with lapses in mask wearing, attending social gatherings that allow for transmission of COVID-19, and people who are experiencing symptoms being out in public instead of self-isolating to reduce chances for exposing others,” said Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County’s health officer. “It’s important for everyone now to double down on those public health practices, especially mask wearing, to get this turned around, and we are announcing these changes at a community level and in our education guidance today.”

The new public health order limiting mass gatherings to 15 people will go into effect on Friday, replacing a previous order that had limited gatherings to 45 people. Mass gatherings, per the county’s definition, are “instances in which individuals are in one location and are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals — not including individuals who reside together — with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.”

Under the health order, people over the age of 5 must wear masks in all indoor public spaces except when eating, drinking, swimming or if they have a medical condition that prevents mask wearing. Additionally, masks must be worn in all outdoor public spaces when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.

“It’s important that we all become more vigilant about mask wearing right now, especially inside gyms and exercise facilities where masks should be worn at all times when indoors,” Marcellino said.

Douglas County reported 3,636 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, an increase of 112 cases since Wednesday.

The county has averaged about 44 new cases per day over the last 14 days, according to a 14-day moving average graph updated weekdays by the health department. The current average of 44.14 new cases per day is down from a high of 47 cases per day in early September and up from a recent low of 18 cases per day in mid-October.

In Douglas County, 2,987 out of the 3,636 cases are inactive or beyond the infectious period, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, meaning 649 cases are active.

Twenty patients at Lawrence’s hospital had COVID-19 on Thursday, one more than Wednesday and the highest number of COVID-19 inpatients the hospital has seen thus far in the pandemic. Nineteen county residents have died from the virus thus far.

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