Kennedy: No community spread in Ellis County

Margaret Allen

There is not community spread of COVID-19 in Ellis County, according to Jason Kennedy, director of the county’s health services.

Ellis County had two active cases as of Wednesday afternoon. The county started the week with four active cases but Kennedy reported Wednesday that two more people had recovered.

“Currently we have no community spread,” Kennedy reported to the Ellis County Commissioners at their regular Monday evening meeting. “There are no internal positives that we’ve seen.”

With 11 recovered cases since the pandemic began earlier this year, Kennedy said, the good news is that the case count in the county remains low.

“It’s been 19 days at this point, from when the governor removed her restrictions, and we moved forward without restrictions,” Kennedy said, referencing May 27 when he and the commissioners lifted restrictions in Ellis County. “We have had four cases in that time period.”

The county continues with no hospitalizations of county residents, and no deaths. At the same time, testing has ramped up exponentially, he said.

Anyone in the community that is a laboratory-confirmed positive will be notified by the Ellis County Health Department, he said.

“If you are not notified by our office, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have zero risk,” Kennedy said. “There’s no way to eliminate all risk from COVID, but your risk is low and probably you have no risk from that occurrence. Now, do we have COVID in the community? Yes, we do.”

Given there are still active cases, he said, people are still at risk.

“We will still see cases as we move through this. There’s no way to eliminate that 100 percent,” but people should continue following the guidelines of frequent and thorough hand washing, along with social distancing and not touching the face, he said.

“People do need to be diligent,” said Kennedy, reminding people that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment still has a mandatory travel quarantine in place. That applies to anyone traveling back to Kansas from certain hot spots in the nation.

“You need to quarantine 14 days,” he said. Furthermore, “if you’re notified by us to maintain quarantine and isolation, that means strict isolation. Do not have contact with anybody besides yourself.”

People are welcome to get tested by private labs, but must do so on their own and at their own expense.

“KDHE is still recommending only testing of symptomatic individuals,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy confirmed that one of the most recent cases is a Hays Larks baseball player, but he’s not an Ellis County resident.

“Therefore they would not be handled through our office,” he said.

The player who tested positive is not included in the active cases listed in Ellis County. That player has returned to his hometown.

Kennedy said his department is working closely with the team and with others in the community to make sure there’s a strategy in place to keep the team safe moving forward.

All Larks players and coaches were tested on Tuesday.

“KDHE, working with them today, hasn’t determined if anyone on the team is a close contact and therefore would necessitate quarantine or testing,” Kennedy said. “But we want to take that added measure to go ahead and test the members of the team and the coaching staff.”

There are also plans in place for a screening questionnaire and monitoring of symptoms for the players for the next 14 days, even though they’re not under mandatory quarantine, or subject to a quarantine, said Kennedy.

“They will still need to manage and look at symptoms, just to make sure that they’re doing OK,” he said.

County Commissioner Dustin Roths asked Kennedy about the public reports he issues every other day on the number of cases in the county.

“What’s the future of reporting for you?” Roths said.

“It’s not mandatory that we report and tell the community,” Kennedy said.

“We want to do that. I do think it’s important for the community,” he said. “I think it’s kind of two-fold; I think it does increase some of the anxiety, but I think it lessens some of the anxiety for people just to know the truth and know what’s out there.”

Roths indicated concern.

“I think about the thing that you just mentioned, anxiety for people,” he said.

“The virus is real, the impact of the virus is real,” Kennedy replied. “The fear, the angst, the anxiety is real. … Realistically we’re a long ways away from a vaccine, so there’s the community understanding that, and understanding that we will continue to see cases.”