The Miami County Health Department has a new chart on its Facebook page that provides a weekly look at COVID-19 test results, beginning in March.

The percent of positive COVID-19 test results in Miami County declined in late July, according to the most recent Miami County Health Department report.

For the week of July 19-25, COVID-19 test results came back for 214 county residents, and 5.14 percent of those were positive, down from 7.76 percent the previous week.

The percentage of positive tests compared to total test results is an important indicator of how the COVID-19 virus is spreading locally, the health department reports.

While the percentage fluctuates each week, the overall percentage of positive tests collected since the first of March remains under 5 percent. The county has recorded 2,604 tests overall, with about 4.5 percent testing positive. Commissioner Tyler Vaughan noted that’s less than half of 1 percent of the county’s total population.

Vaughan said he brings up the point because a lot of the calls he receives from county residents who are concerned about an uptick in cases is that they believe a 5 percent infection rate means 5 percent of the county’s total population is infected, when in reality the infection rate represents about 4.5 percent of the 2,604 people who have been tested.

In her weekly COVID-19 report to county commissioners, Miami County Health Director Rita McKoon said Wednesday, July 29, that since March the county has recorded a total of 117 cases.

The county has not recorded any COVID-related deaths, according to reports. As of 1 p.m. July 29 the county had 16 active cases, McKoon said, noting the other 101 cases have recovered.

Commission Chairman Rob Roberts asked McKoon if she had seen an instance of someone contracting COVID-19 for a second time.

“We have not had any positives after they have recovered, but we have had them in Kansas,” McKoon said. “So they are treated then as a new case. But (health professionals) don’t know for sure if they will infect somebody else or not. That has not been proven yet.”

Commissioner Phil Dixon asked McKoon how many of the 16 active cases are hospitalized.

“At this time we have one in the hospital,” McKoon said. “Since the beginning, we’ve had a total of 10 people hospitalized.”

The health department posts its weekly report every Wednesday on its Facebook page. The department’s July 29 report showing 117 total cases was an increase of 25 cases from the 92 total cases reported on July 22. Test results can take anywhere from one to 15 days to receive from the reporting provider/laboratory, so the numbers can represent specimens collected up to 15 days prior to the report being received, the department said.

Since July 1, the case count has increased from 34 cases (some of the positive cases could have been from specimens collected in June) to 117 cases as of July 29. The health department’s report indicates 95 percent of the people who have been tested in the county were symptomatic.

“Two cities in the county (Paola and Osawatomie) have mandated masks, and one city (Louisburg) did not,” Roberts said. “So, where are you seeing the uptick in cases?”

McKoon said individuals with Louisburg and Paola addresses account for most of the cases.

During the past week, Louisburg showed an increase of 15 cases, from 24 on July 22 to 39 on July 29. Paola showed an increase of eight cases, from 46 to 54, for the same period. Together, the two communities account for 93 of the 117 total cases. The caveat for the increase in the past week for the two communities is that some of the test results could represent specimens collected up to 15 days earlier, as previously stated.

McKoon said a lot of the cases with Paola and Louisburg addresses are located in rural parts of the county and not within those communities’ city limits.

The addresses for the other cases are Bucyrus, 8; Osawatomie, 6; Spring Hill, 4; Wellsville, 4, and Fontana, 2, according to the department’s July 29 report.

An increase in cases alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Health officials in the county and across the state are tracking the percentage of positive tests to total tests to monitor virus spread. Through July 29, 284,949 people had been tested statewide, with a 9.4 percent positive rate, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The Miami County Health Department has a new chart on its Facebook page that represents test results by week for county residents. The graph starts with the 10th week of the year (beginning March 1) and ends with the 30th week (beginning July 19).

Not all of Miami County’s cases originated in the county. Residents have picked up the virus through their travels, attending gatherings and other activities, outside visitors, and in other ways.

Commissioners realize not all COVID-19 cases are generated in the workplace but also noted the county has a mobile workforce that travels north. Johnson and Wyandotte counties have the most COVID-19 cases in the state.

“We’ve had local businesses that have had employees (test positive) but we’ve also had a lot of Johnson and Wyandotte County employees,” McKoon said.

Vaughan inquired about the Miami County Medical Center in Paola.

“From your reports, the Miami County hospital out here, there’s been no issues with capacity or treatment or anything like that?” Vaughan said. “They feel very positive about where they’re at and their ability to treat (COVID) patients.”

McKoon acknowledged the hospital has not encountered any difficulties of which she’s aware.

Dixon said an acquaintance that had the virus was very impressed with how they were treated by the county health department and appreciated the follow-up call to check on how they were doing.

Noting the low percentage of positive tests, Vaughan said, “For perspective, this seems like this is being managed very well in our county.”

Roberts agreed and said he thought the county health department was doing a fantastic job.

“Well, we’re trying very hard,” McKoon said.

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

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