KDHE identifies two COVID-19 outbreaks at Douglas County high schools; statewide case count nears 60,000

photo by: Associated Press

Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment, spoke about current numbers of COVID-19 cases Wednesday, July 8, 2020, during a news conference at the Kansas Statehouse. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

In its weekly update on the locations of certain outbreaks of COVID-19, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday identified two Douglas County-area high schools that have confirmed five or more cases of the respiratory virus in the last 14 days.

Five cases were confirmed at Baldwin High School in Baldwin City, and seven cases were confirmed on the volleyball team at Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence. Since KDHE separates outbreak locations into sports and school categories, it’s unlikely the cases at Baldwin High School are tied to athletics.

KDHE on Wednesday also confirmed that it is now monitoring 219 active virus outbreaks, up from 211 last Wednesday, and has named 39 locations, up from 29 last week. For a cluster location to be disclosed, it must have confirmed at least five cases in the past 14 days.

Kansas also continued its streak of high increases in new cases, reporting 1,120 additional COVID-19 cases since data was last released on Monday, and the state’s cumulative case count now sits at 59,749 since the pandemic began in March.

KDHE on a regular basis uses a process called reconciliation of vital statistics death records to ensure that death counts from COVID-19 are accurate. It’s necessary, department secretary Dr. Lee Norman said last week, because KDHE tracks COVID-19 deaths through two different information streams: information from local health departments and through a department epidemiology system.

Sometimes causes of death can be missing from either system and KDHE has to reconcile the numbers between the two systems, similar to an audit, Norman said. That process was evident again Wednesday as the state’s confirmed death toll jumped by 41 to 678.

Ashley Jones-Weisner, a spokesperson for KDHE, said 21 of the newly-recorded deaths were due to the reconciliation process. That means 20 deaths were part of the regular update, which is a significant increase on its own for a single data reporting period.

Kansas’ 1,120 new cases of COVID-19 were out of a total of 7,541 tests conducted, a percent positive rate of 14.9%. Health experts, including Norman, have said throughout the pandemic that a rate above 10% is concerning — and Kansas has not had a testing rate under 10% in a single reporting period for weeks.

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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