By JOHN HANNA
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas set another record Wednesday for its biggest seven-day spike in new confirmed coronavirus cases, and the state’s top public health official said it’s a sign that the state is seeing community spread of the virus even in “frontier” counties.
The state health department reported 1,267 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2.3%, to bring the total to 55,226. The average number of new cases per day was 622 for the seven days ending Wednesday, surpassing the previous record average of 615 for the first seven days of September.
The state also reported another 21 deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total for the pandemic to 621. Nine of those deaths occurred before this week and were added to the total after a regular review of death certificates.
Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, acknowledged that the number of deaths as a total of positive cases has hovered around 1.1%. He said hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, largely because a higher percentage of younger people are getting infected. The median age of Kansas residents testing is 35, having dropped steadily since the end of March.
But Norman said during a Statehouse news conference that a “worrisome concern” is that the state anticipates that cases will continue to rise, and “1.1% of an ever-enlarging number is an ever-enlarging number.”
“We’re getting more widespread community spread statewide,” Norman said. “It’s not as just located in packing plants, nursing homes and the like, and so it’s becoming more community spread in rural and frontier counties.”
Kansas has no statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public because of a pandemic-management law enacted in June as a compromise between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The law has left decisions about restrictions on businesses and public gatherings and when K-12 schools should resume to local officials. GOP lawmakers recently extracted a public promise from Kelly that she won’t seek to close businesses statewide again, as she did in the spring.
During the past two weeks, the biggest increases in reported cases per 1,000 residents have been in rural central or western Kansas counties. Cheyenne County in the state’s far northwestern corner is in the lead with nearly 17 new cases per 1,000 residents, having seen its total case count jump from nine to 54, according to the state health department.
Four of the top five counties for total cases per 1,000 residents also are in central or western Kansas, led by Ford County in southwestern Kansas, with nearly 82 reported cases per 1,000 residents for the pandemic.
“It’s more widespread — urban, surburban, rural, frontier — and those are contributing to the overall numbers in an unfortunate way,” Norman said. “There’s a lot more young people that are getting infected in schools and colleges and universities and sports.”
Meanwhile, the University of Kansas Medical Center is part of a nationwide clinical trial looking into different treatments for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of the coronavirus who do not require hospitalization.
The first treatment will involve a drug made by Eli Lilly and the use of engineered versions of the same virus-fighting antibodies that the body naturally produces, KCUR-FM reported. The clinical trial is one of at least 40 around the country.
KU Medical Center’s lead investigator, Dr. Mario Castro, said the trial will allow for the introduction of multiple agents to combat COVID-19 as they become available.
Click here for additional numbers from the KDHE.