COVID-19 Numbers Tilt in Wyandotte County’s Favor

By Dennis Boone

Wyandotte County, the COVID-19 hotspot for Kansas since the onset of the pandemic, has new evidence that containment efforts are bringing the illness under control.
At a news briefing this morning, physician Allen Greiner of the Unified Government’s health department noted that the 14-day average of total new cases was down sharply, as were new reports of fatalities over that same period. “We’re pleased that’s coming down, even with the phased reopening” of the state’s economy, said Greiner, a family physician who is also on staff at the University of Kansas Health System. 
He was joined at the briefing by Steven Stites, medical director for the health system., and Dana Hawkinson, infectious-disease specalist for the hospital. Also in the video meeting were U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, with brief legislative updates from Washington, and Chelsea Smith of the Community Blood Center, who assessed growing demand for blood supplies as regular activities resume in parts of the economy, along with increased hospital operations.
Greiner, though, had perhaps the best news with his series of charts on how the disease, for the moment, is ebbing in Wyandotte County. That progress was especially heartening, he said, considering that “our rate has been quite a bit higher than other counties, with higher numbers of deaths, and our hospitalization rate  has been about 10 times higher than our neighboring counties, even those with higher numbers of active total cases. We’ve come down from a peak almost a month ago, and the number of people who are recovered is pretty amzing and impressive.”
Increased testing, he said, also had shown a decline in the percentage of positive cases, another good sign. “If people are getting out and getting tested early, and  engaged with the health system, I think we can get this thing under control,” he said.
Greiner also provided an age breakdown of cases, demonsrating the toll that COVID-19 is levying on older residents: Nearly two-thirds of the county’s 74 deaths came among people 75 or older.
Hawkinson provided a daily census update, showing the hospital with 20 inpatient cases, up from the previous day’s total of 14. Eight of those are in ICU, he said, with four on ventilators. With a holiday weekend approaching and the tempation to gather with family over Memorial Day, he and Stites cautioned that people need to maintain social distancing and hygienic practices that have helped slow the rate of infection in the overall population. 
In particular, they said, while transmission is now believed to be largely through direct contact between individuals, and not food-borne, it’s a good idea to avoid shared meal settings, especially the use of common utensils and buffet-type set-ups. “Those types of things are good for spreading all kinds of disease–sharing food, overall, plates and drinks is a no-no, and high-risk,” Hawkinson said.