Ellis County’s COVID-19 cases jump

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

An error in data collection last week significantly undercounted the number of new COVID-19 cases in Ellis County.

With the new numbers included, the county’s average daily cases went up 700%, according to Ellis County Health Services director Jason Kennedy.

Average daily cases went from 1.1 cases a day on Aug. 12 to 7.9 cases a day on Aug. 20, he said.

“Many of the new cases have mild to no symptoms, which can make it difficult to control the spread of the virus through contact tracing and isolation,” Kennedy said in a press release Monday.

According to the new count, Ellis County has 98 active COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average is 11.47%, with a 6.7% of positives.

“This is a total increase from Monday, Aug. 17, to today of 72 additional new active cases,” the release said.

The data error resulted between the state of Kansas and CRL Reference Labs in Lenexa. CRL was not reporting results electronically to the state. The health department was notified of 483 test results from this past Saturday to Monday, with 72 of those returned positive.

The results changed Ellis County’s three daily reports from last week: it added two more cases Monday; 15 more cases Wednesday; and 32 more on Friday.

While the new 72 cases are all in Ellis County, not all of them are Fort Hays State University students, Kennedy said. FHSU classes started on Monday, Aug. 17.

The popular Taco Shop restaurant, 333 W. 8th, announced Sunday on Facebook that it has had employees test positive and that other employees were being tested.

“We have decided that our best course of action is to close the store until we can assure the safety of our employees and customers,” said the announcement.

Likewise, Breathe Coffee House, 703b Main, announced Sunday on Facebook that it would be closed through Friday.

“With the recent rise of COVID cases, numerous members of our staff are needing to quarantine,“ the announcement said.

Hays High School canceled football practice Monday and Tuesday after a player tested positive.

With strong warnings against large gatherings, last week, Kennedy had noted that several people who have recently tested positive for the coronavirus attended house parties and visited bars in Hays on Friday, Aug. 14, and Saturday, Aug. 15.

FHSU students who live in Ellis County and on campus are included in Ellis County’s numbers.

FHSU’s online students living outside Ellis County and students attending classes on campus but living in other counties are not counted in Ellis County’s case numbers, Kennedy has said. Case count protocols are established by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The health department is asking anyone with symptoms to isolate immediately. Residents should contact their health care provider or the Hays Med COVID Hotline at 877-261-7140.

Any Fort Hays State University student should contact the FHSU Student Health Center at 785-628-4293.

The health department reports numbers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in coordination with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.