Top health official: Kansas ‘losing the battle’ on COVID-19
photo by: Associated Press
TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas’ top public health official warned Friday that the state is “losing the battle” against the coronavirus as it reported another record increase in new cases.
The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas reported 1,855 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.9%, to bring the total for the pandemic to 65,807. The state also reported another 40 COVID-19-related deaths, increasing the pandemic total to 763. Twenty-six of those were reported Thursday in Shawnee County, where the local health department reviewed previous death certificates from the Topeka area.
“Other states are doing bad, and we’re doing worse than most,” Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state health department, said during an interview. “We’re losing the battle right now.”
The state saw an average of 671 new cases a day for the seven days ending Friday, breaking the state’s previous record of 667 for the seven days ending Sept. 28. The state has seen that seven-day average hit or exceed 600 cases per day for five of the six reports it has issued in the past two weeks.
Norman predicted last week that the state’s reporting of new cases could increase to as many as 900 a day on average in the coming months. COVID-19-related deaths have for about a month hovered around 1.1% of reported cases, but with Friday’s report, the figure was 1.16%, the highest in almost two months.
The actual number of cases is thought to be much higher because people can be infected without feeling ill or they may have only minor symptoms, and because of a lack of testing, particularly early in the pandemic. Norman said earlier this week that between 4% and 4.5% of the state’s population probably has been infected since the pandemic reached Kansas in early March — between 116,000 and 131,000 cases.
Norman blamed the increases on residents’ refusal to consistently follow public health guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding large public gatherings. He said people need to do all of them in tandem to check the virus’ spread.
“One of the things that we just have to collectively as a state start working together with is what are the social and psychological underpinnings for the reasons why for we’re going the direction we’re going,” Norman said. “Our curve is going absolutely the wrong direction.”