As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third calendar year, the case count in Lyon County is once again on the rise and public health officials will look to adjust their response accordingly.
Renee Hively and Dr. Ladun Oyenuga of Lyon County Public Health addressed the county commission Wednesday morning and explained that COVID-19 continues to be a concern in the area.
“We’re still very much deep in COVID-land,” Oyenuga said. “Testing has increased, our positivity rate is pretty significant. … Hospitalizations are at an all-time high also. Presently, we have 10 active hospitalizations. We’ve been running anywhere between, I’ll say, nine and 13 over the past month at the hospital.”
Hively said that public health is predicting a mid-January peak in case counts that will taper down by the end of March, so “we’re preparing for the next 90 days at least and see what happens after that.”
As a part of that preparation, Hively reported that LCPH will transfer active cases and contact tracing investigations to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in order to free up its staff to assist with the increased demand for testing.
“We’re going to kind of cross-train some of those (staff),” she said. “We’re actually meeting with those staff right now as we speak to see how they feel about moving into that, if we could have some people cross-trained in the backside, running some laboratory testing and we can push more tests out that way. And then also doing the data entry piece because we have to enter all that information into the lab exchange with the state. Also, just because we’re moving those cases up to KDHE does not mean that our phone lines won’t be going off the wall.”
Commission Chairman Rollie Martin asked Oyenuga and Hively to report back what their final decision is about how to use county employees because “we’ve got some things we’re concerned about a little bit.”
Hively added that once responsibility for active cases and contact tracing transitions to KDHE, Lyon County will be beholden to the state’s guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines shortening isolation for asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts to five days.
KDHE announced on Friday afternoon that it had updated its guidelines to be in alignment with the CDC.
Oyenuga said that she had some concerns about the new CDC guidelines because they seem to make quarantining “almost optional.”
Hively said that it is “a bad thing” for the county to fall under KDHE guidelines “because there honestly needs to be some consistency. Through this whole pandemic, there’s not been a lot of consistency.”
However, she also had some concerns about the new CDC guidelines.
“We know 14 days is the best standard if we’re going to control any type of infectious disease, but we continue to make decisions based on economics, which I understand — workforce and different things like that,” she said. “It really makes it hard locally to have a lot of consistency when you have your federal, state and local levels all doing something completely different. And right now, where we’re at in this stage of the pandemic, if we fail to adopt what KDHE adopts and we do something different or do something more stringent, then we’re going to get backlash or people aren’t going to follow it anyway.”
Hively also reported that on Wednesday LCPH had enrolled in a federal testing program that will allow it to give free at-home test kits, although its first order would not be made until Jan. 4 and she wasn’t certain how long the shipping process would take.
“We’re still waiting to see what those final guidelines are, how we can distribute those, who we can and can’t, those kinds of things,” she said.
In other business, the commission agreed to add its name to a draft copy of the 2022 Lyon County Joint Legislative Statement alongside a total of 14 local entities.