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COVID-19 cases remain on the rise in Miami County.

Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Whelan told county commissioners at their Wednesday, Dec. 29, meeting the county has added 214 new cases since Dec. 22, which is an increase of 68 new cases from the week before.

Since Dec. 15, the county has recorded 372 new cases, according to the Miami County Health Department’s (MCHD) weekly reports.

“Our positivity (test) rate right now is still a little over 14 percent,” Whelan said. “A little bit of good news is the Omicron variant officially is not here yet. There’s about 30 cases or so in the state.”

The county currently has around 180 active cases, though MCHD Director Christena Beer said the actual count could be higher.

“With the number of new cases we’ve had in the last week, we’ve had a little bit of issue getting labs to report over the holiday, for good reason, so all those numbers are catching up,” Beer told county commissioners. “So 180 active cases might be under estimating what we are currently at in the county.”

Beer and Whelan delivered the weekly update together at the meeting, with each providing new numbers in a report Commission Chair Rob Roberts called “very sobering”.

Since the beginning of December, the county has recorded six new COVID-related deaths, according to the MCHD report.

“We have had 11 new hospitalizations in the last two weeks,” Beer said.

Two active clusters exist in the county.

“One with a hospital setting with 19 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death associated, and one other cluster with a sports-related exposure across two different states,” Beer said.

Cases are increasing throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area.

“We’re seeing about 800 new cases per day, 3,200 new tests per day and about 150 new hospitalizations per day, and that’s with 27 hospitals reporting in our region,” Beer said.

She said the University of Kansas Health System saw its largest number of positive COVID-19 patients come through the emergency room Tuesday, Dec. 28.

“However they discharged more than they admitted,” Beer said. “Hospitalizations region-wide are going down slightly. Countywide, our deaths and our hospitalizations are going up right now.”

Clinics in Miami County are reporting one- to three-hour wait times for walk-ins, Whelan said in a follow-up email. In addition to more COVID-19 cases, flu, bronchitis and RSV cases are ramping up, he said.

The demand for COVID testing continues to be high. And the medical community throughout the region and across the country is having difficulty securing testing supplies because of a backlog in the supply chain, the pair reported.

Thousands of local residents have been tested in the past two years, according to the MCHD report.

“We’ve had approximately 21,290 people tested in Miami County with at least one test since the beginning,” Beer said.

The pharmacy and community testing partnership with Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories (KHEL), and MAWD Pathology Group (MAWD) accounted for approximately 25 percent of the total number of people tested, according to the MCHD.

Whelan said in an email that after KDHE announced grant monies would no longer be available as of late November, it has overwhelmed the capacity for testing at MCHD, which continues to provide tests and vaccinations at no charge.

“We scheduled a test every 15 minutes and sometimes we have an entire carful every 15 minutes,” Beer said. “So it could be six people or one person.”

The challenge to keep pace is compounded by staff vacancies at MCHD.

“We’re down four staff right now with new positions and retirements that have happened,” Beer said. “Our immunization nurse is splitting her day between regular immunizations and testing."

Demand for vaccinations remains high. MCHD offers a walk-in vaccination clinic on Mondays at the department, located at 1201 Lakemary Drive in Paola.

“Every Monday, we’re seeing around 200 people for vaccine clinic,” she said. “That takes every single one of our staff members to run those clinics on Mondays so we have very little if anyone answering the phones. We’re looking back into maybe offering some volunteers to come in and route those calls.

“We’re trying our best to accommodate, were just really overwhelmed right now,” she said.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 29, Miami County had recorded 5,360 COVID-19 cases, 196 hospitalizations, 38 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and 78 deaths since the first case was reported in the county almost two years ago.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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