COVID-19 cases rising in Ford County

Vincent Marshall
Nearly 70 new positive cases of the coronavirus have been documented in Ford County in the past week.

As of Monday, Aug. 31, Ford County COVID-19 cases had reached 2,333 total since the pandemic began in March.

After nearly two months of single-digit cases per week, in the last two weeks, the cases in Ford County have consistently risen with 20-plus new cases each time numbers were reported. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment releases new case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

KDHE on Monday reported 24 new cases in Ford County. There were 27 new cases on Aug. 28 and 25 new cases on Aug. 25.

On Wednesday, the total number of cases jumped by 40.

As for the cause of the recent spikes, Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert said, "It's too early to tell."

KDHE data also shows Ford County is testing at a higher rate per capita at 256.9 per 1,000 people, with a positive case rate of 70.6 per 1,000 people as of Sept. 3.

According to Ford County physician's adviser Dr. R.C. Trotter, the total number of deaths was 12.

“The last death occurred a week ago," Trotter said. "As for hospitalizations, the numbers remain low. Fewer people are getting admitted than staying home so mass hospitalizations out here is not happening and it’s still holding steady."

According to Trotter, there was a surge in students at Dodge City Community College who tested positive.

Trotter said the students are being quarantined and not being let out into the community. The number of cases tied to the college was unknown.

In Dodge City Public Schools, one staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus with five staff members having household exposure, while three staff members are awaiting test results, according to Dodge City USD 443 public information officer Kerri Baker.

Three students have tested positive, with 39 students having household exposure and four undergoing testing.

According to Baker, the low percentage of confirmed cases across the board for all school facilities shows there isn't a cluster of cases.

"Due to the low percentage number, as of right now no plans on shutting down any schools," Baker said. "We continue to monitor outcomes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, similar to what KDHE is doing, but as of now we are business as usual."

Baker added that Dodge City USD 443 is following all KDHE and Ford County Health Department guidelines.

As the weather begins to change and flu season nears, some concerns have been raised about what happens with the first flu season under COVID-19.

"Who knows," said Trotter. "We will be testing for flu and COVID and vice versa."

One question raised is the vaccine and the timetable for when that could become available.

Trotter said there are several potential vaccines in the pipeline that could be the endgame for the pandemic.

“It's like with polio, we had to wait to get a vaccine," Trotter said. "If a trial comes around for the vaccine people should consider being a part of it. Now that does mean some would get the vaccine and others the placebo but it is something people can consider doing, maybe get involved and stem the tide of the disease."

Going forward, Trotter said, two things can help keep people safe: social distancing and wearing masks.

"Of all things, the best is wearing the mask," he said. "It's like seat belts. We have speed limits, we have no smoking inside anymore, it’s the same as the mask, it’s a public health issue. I don't see it as a rights thing because outcome is someone can get sick and, worse, die. Now does that mean you have to wear a mask while riding a bike? No, of course not, but think of your fellow citizens.

"It can be mask or 6 feet, not necessarily mask and 6 feet, but things are getting better."

In the lead-up to a possible vaccine, another recommendation is immunizations in general, including flu shots.

“I recommend flu shots and other immunizations, and when a trial for COVID comes along, consider it," Trotter said.

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