Miami County has logged over 200 new COVID-19 cases in the past week.
“As of noon today, we’ve had 3,660 cases since this began; that’s an increase of 217 since last Wednesday [Sept. 1],” Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Whelan reported at the County Commission’s meeting Wednesday, Sept. 8. “The health department is showing 245 active cases. We had 153 last week.”
Whelan told commissioners two new deaths have been reported to the Miami County Health Department (MCHD), raising the county’s death toll to 51. The deaths were a 57-year-old male and a 78-year-old male.
Whelan said the health department is reporting five new hospitalizations in the past week, including one patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He said the county has recorded 150 total hospitalizations.
COVID-19 clusters are on the rise in the county.
“We now have four to five active school clusters and four non-school-related clusters. Two long-term care facilities, a residential facility and one in a hospital setting,” Whelan said. “The health department is advising that hundreds of individuals are currently undergoing modified quarantine."
Paola USD 368, Osawatomie USD 367 and Louisburg USD 416 have added dashboards to their websites to help their communities keep track of cases in the schools. Those numbers are updated every Friday afternoon.
On Friday, Sept. 3, Louisburg USD 416 had 57 active cases (54 students and three staff members), according to its dashboard. By building, those cases were: Rockville Elementary, 14 students and three staff members; Broadmoor Elementary, five students; Louisburg Middle School, 17 students; Louisburg High School, 22 students.
Osawatomie USD 367 listed 19 active cases (11 students and eight staff members). By building, the cases were: Swenson, one student and one staff member; Trojan Elementary, six students and three staff members; Osawatomie Middle School, three students and one staff member; Osawatomie High School, one student; District, three staff members.
Paola USD 368’s dashboard showed 16 active cases (12 students and four staff members). Building totals were: Cottonwood Elementary, four students; Sunflower Elementary, four students and one staff member; Paola Middle School, no cases; Paola High School, four students and three staff members.
The three school districts’ new numbers should be posted late afternoon Friday, Sept. 10.
Commissioner Phil Dixon asked what percentage of the active cases in the county are under the age of 18.
Whelan said last week’s numbers showed about 35 percent of the individuals are under age 18. The report did not have new numbers on breakthrough cases or vaccination totals in the county.
The county’s positivity test rate for the past two weeks is 10.28 percent.
The health department and pharmacies are showing a three-fold increase in daily testing since last week, Whelan said.
“KDHE is reporting a shortage of test kits,” he said. “We did have a pharmacy that ran out at 8:30 this morning. We got into the stock at the health department to keep them testing. So, we’re going to try and get some more test kits in.”
Whelan said a number of individuals are taking the home COVID-19 test. And some are not reporting the results in a timely manner or at all.
“They’re not reporting their results, and they’re not reporting their re-testing results,” Whelan said. “That causes a pretty significant delay in the health department making appropriate recommendations to those individuals on what they need to be doing, and it takes a lot longer to conduct their investigations.”
Whelan’s report showed 22 percent availability of ICU beds at hospitals on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area, and the higher volume of cases is putting a strain on walk-in care facilities.
“Olathe Health walk-in clinics in the county are experiencing a three- to four-hour wait to be seen for any reason,” he said.
The surge in cases is placing a strain on the county health department.
Whelan said the health department is averaging 300 to 400 incoming/outgoing calls a day and receiving hundreds of emails.
“A majority of the calls the health department receives can only be handled by trained individuals … not just anybody can answer the COVID questions,” Whelan said. “It has to be a nurse that has experience in dealing with it.”
Commission Chair Rob Roberts called the MCHD’s latest report “very alarming.” He and the other commissioners talked about what the county could do to assist the health department in handling the heavy load of calls coming in.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is assisting the health department with case investigations.
Whelan said KDHE does not have enough staff to handle the large volume of cases coming in from across the state and that is causing delays in investigations.
The overwhelming caseload also makes it harder to identify clusters quickly which can lead to higher community transmissions, he said.
Commissioner Tyler Vaughan speculated the amount of cases that are being identified is actually a fraction of the true number.
“I would surmise that based on the workload at the health department, the increase of 217 [cases in the past week] is probably low,” he said.
Whelan said the health department staff is working late into the evening every night, trying to stay on top of the caseload, and their resources are stretched thin.
He did not express optimism that the number of new cases would slow down.
“We are not in a very good place right now,” Whelan said.