City, DCCC, KDHE respond to cluster clarifications

Vincent Marshall

More businesses and entities are adding to the disagreement surrounding the Kansas Department of Health and Environment cluster reports released last week.

After looking at its numbers, Dodge City Community College said its current cases do not match up with the KDHE report.

“The data released by the KDHE does not represent timely or accurate numbers regarding active cases amongst students or employees at Dodge City Community College,” said DCCC assistant vice president of administration and human resources Kristi Ohlschwager said in a news release on Monday. “At this time DCCC only has two positive cases of COVID-19 amongst its employees and two employees are in self-isolation due to exposure to COVID-19 in their personal lives.”

Last week's KDHE cluster report said DCCC had 12 active cases and 37 in its athletics program.

According to KDHE communications director Kristi Zears, the number of cases listed on the website is reflective of the total since the outbreak began in March and does not reflect the number currently in isolation or quarantine.

Clusters will be listed for entities showing five or more active cases while private businesses will be listed as a cluster with 20 or more cases.

The KDHE website states that a cluster will no longer be considered active after 28 days have passed without a new case of the virus.

“The cases reported by the KDHE in their cluster information does not reflect current active cases in our athletic department," said DCCC athletic director Jacob Ripple in a news release. "We have had cases within our department, but we have taken aggressive measures to limit the spread within our programs.

"This has included the shutdown of all athletic activities for a period of time and a gradual return to practice protocol for our programs, if they meet a certain criteria.

"We are confident that these measures will help limit any new spread and will best ensure the safety of our student-athletes.”

According to Ohlschwager, all employees, staff and community members are given access to face masks, gloves and noncontact thermometers to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Plexiglas dividers have also been added to rooms and offices for additional safety.

"The college is in constant communication with the Ford County Health Administrator, along with other county officials, to provide updates and to keep them apprised of the COVID-19 situation on the DCCC campus," Ohlschwager said.

The City of Dodge City Human Resources Department reported no active cases of COVID-19 among city employees as of 5 p.m. Monday.

According to city officials, one employee is in quarantine and awaiting testing results.

Officials said the exposure occurred unrelated to city operations or facilities.

“We have strived to be as transparent as policies allow regarding the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic within our entity when the situation may have a direct impact on our residents and all whom we serve,” said city manager Nick Hernandez. “This transparency continues now through the new release by KDHE with their cluster reporting.

"Though we were listed based on the parameters the state health officials set for the new method of reporting, that report does not reflect the current actuality of cases within our staff.”

City officials also said they received confirmation from KDHE regarding the cluster report listing Dodge City Hall as having 13 active cases.

According to city human resource officer Tara Schraeder, that number reported was cumulative positive cases of all employees from all departments throughout the city and not just City Hall.

“We keep track of testing and results within our entity and follow up with employees and supervisors that may have been exposed and the source of the exposure," Schraeder said. "If necessary, we make adjustments for the safety of the public that may interact with the department.”

The city relies on reports from local and state health officials as the City of Dodge City is not involved with the testing, reporting or tracking of cases from the public for numbers outside of city employee cases.

“If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it is that the information and numbers can change on a dime and that we must adjust our operations and prevention policies to the situation as needed,” Hernandez said. “But our top priority has been, and continues to be, the health and safety of our community while continuing to serve them responsibly and in our fullest capacity.”

Meanwhile for overall cases, the KDHE report showed on Monday an additional 48 new cases countywide and another 38 cases this past Friday.

Throughout the week last week, Ford County gained 20-plus new cases on each KDHE reporting day — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — numbers not seen since the start of the pandemic locally.

Deaths from COVID-19 remained at 12 as of Tuesday.

“Anytime there are growing case numbers and, especially with high per capita rates, this concerns KDHE,” Zears said. “We implore residents to take precautions: avoid mass gatherings, wear masks and practice social distancing. These actions are imperative to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“KDHE does not have extra employees in Ford County. Our staff continue to remain available to assist with contact tracing and investigation should we be requested.”

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