Douglas County again clear of any named COVID-19 outbreaks; Kansas death toll from virus passes 800

photo by: Associated Press

Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment, walks to his weekly press briefing Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Douglas County has gone another week without an outbreak of COVID-19 severe enough to be named in the state Department of Health and Environment’s list of locations that were attributed to a virus spread of more than five cases in the past 14 days.

KDHE’s list, released each Wednesday, has not included a named outbreak in Douglas County since Sept. 30, when Bishop Seabury Academy and Baldwin City High School were named with seven and five cases, respectively. Across the state, however, virus spread has ramped up since the department’s Oct. 7 outbreak update.

The state is now tracking 241 active COVID-19 outbreaks, which have accounted for 8,063 cases, 254 hospitalizations and 154 deaths — 39 of those outbreaks meet the criteria to have their location disclosed, up slightly from 38 named clusters last week.

KDHE also announced that the state had confirmed 1,293 new cases of COVID-19 since data was last released Monday. This continues a trend Gov. Laura Kelly mentioned Tuesday that Kansas this week has set a new record for most new daily cases of COVID-19 over a weeklong period. Last Wednesday, for example, Kansas’ total case count sat at 63,952 and now sits at 69,155 cases after the most recent update.

This amounts to an average of just over 743 new cases per day over the last week, again the highest rate Kansas has recorded since the pandemic began in March.

KDHE also recorded 67 additional deaths in Wednesday’s update, and COVID-19 has now killed 838 Kansans over the course of the last seven months. It should be noted that the marked increase in deaths does not necessarily mean all 67 people died since Monday’s update.

KDHE uses a process called reconciliation of vital statistics death records to ensure that death counts from COVID-19 are accurate. The department’s secretary, Dr. Lee Norman, has said in past weeks that KDHE tracks virus deaths through information from local health departments and through an in-house epidemiology system. Death records are finalized and signed by physicians across the state, and occasionally the numbers in KDHE’s two systems don’t match up — so the reconciliation process is essentially an audit to make sure deaths are appropriately attributed to COVID-19.

Kansas’ 1,293 new cases of COVID-19 were out of a total of 7,746 tests conducted, a percent positive rate of 16.7%. Health experts, including Norman, have said throughout the pandemic that a rate above 10% is concerning. He also said in an interview with the Associated Press last week that Kansas is “losing the battle” against COVID-19.

Norman will give a press conference at 4 p.m. this afternoon to discuss the latest data surrounding COVID-19. It can be streamed live on the KDHE Facebook page.

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