Ellis County COVID-19 cases trend upward

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

One of Ellis County’s important COVID-19 numbers is going in the wrong direction, and that’s not good, says county health services director Jason Kennedy.

The seven-day average percent of positive was 29.4% as of Monday.

“That’s the one we’re worried about,” Kennedy told the Ellis County Commission on Monday evening during his weekly COVID-19 report at the commission’s regular meeting in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.

The seven-day average number of cases is also starting to go up again, he said, from when it hit a peak of around 30, to where now the county is creeping up again, sitting at about 17 on Monday.

“We had a sizable increase in cases over our reporting on Friday,” Kennedy said, noting those cases reflect the past couple of weeks or so.

“What that means is things are not better this week,” he said. “What we see this week is what we did two weeks ago, last week, not what we did today. We can always change the future, but we need to start now, so we need people to follow those best public health practices.”

Monday’s report was a switch from the week before, when things were looking a little better in the county, he told the commissioners.

“You don’t ever say anything good in COVID times, because now we’ve reversed that trend and started off in the wrong direction,” Kennedy said.

Percent of positive continues to increase, a lot of it due to less testing than a couple of weeks ago, he said, noting there’s still more virus in the community.

“Both those trends are not in the positive direction,” he said.

Changing the way it’s reported

Kennedy said the health department is going to start reporting the numbers to the public on its COVID-19 website dashboard differently.

Some tests are reported more quickly than others, and that’s creating confusion with the numbers, he said.

Instead of reporting new cases, the health department is now going to report new cases per seven-day average.

“That way people can kind of use that to gauge trends,” he said. “So they can look back and say, ‘Well for the last seven days it’s been about 18 cases a day, so if I want to figure out how many cases we’ve had in the last two days, I take two times 18,’ and that should give you a fairly good approximation.”

Total cases will also be reported.

The confusion is created by the fact some of the results of asymptomatic and private testing don’t come back for seven to nine days, he said.

While tests done at HaysMed, First Care Clinic, HaysMed walk-in clinic and local physician offices are coming back in 48 hours, sometimes 24.

As of Monday, the county had 193 active cases and six hospitalizations. There are 689 recovered cases no longer being monitored by the health department.

There have been 861 positive tests, which is always less than the total number of cases.

Total cases are at 875, and include probable cases also, which are people not tested but presumed to be positive by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because they were symptomatic within 14 days of close contact with a positive case.

Three people in Ellis County have died of COVID-19.

The county updates the numbers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Kennedy has said there are three clusters in the county, two at long-term care facilities and one among the Fort Hays State University student population.

“We did have a fairly significant amount of testing done over the weekend, associated with long-term cares,” he said.

“About a quarter of our population has received some sort of test for COVID-19,” said Commissioner Dustin Roths.

“Unfortunately, the bulk of this testing actually comes out of long-term care facilities,” Kennedy said, commending the efforts of long-term care staff to keep residents safe, but adding that “some of these people have been tested six, eight times.”

Across the state, the COVID-19 mortality rate in long-term care facilities is double what it is for the general population, he said.