Bourbon County gets tough with COVID cases

A rise in coronavirus cases has prompted the Bourbon County health officer to give locals who test positive written orders to quarantine. She says some have disregarded those recommendations to stem the virus' spread.

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June 25, 2020 - 10:07 AM

Rebecca Johnson at her office in Fort Scott. Photo by Tim Stauffer / Iola Register

Four additional COVID-19 diagnoses in Bourbon County have prompted health officer Rebecca Johnson to get tough.

Johnson, director of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department, announced Wednesday she will issue written orders, forcing those who test positive for the novel coronavirus to either isolate or quarantine.

“The reason for this stricter practice is due to the recent spread of COVID-19 in Bourbon County and having a number of uncooperative individuals who have refused to remain in isolation/quarantine, though they have been given instruction to do so,” Johnson wrote in a news release.

The stricter policy will remain in place until July 8.

Those who disobey the written orders could face misdemeanor criminal charges, Johnson told the Register.

Up to now “we’ve been politely asking people to follow instruction,” she said. “It seems to be because of the circumstance it may be something we’re going to need to require.”

It’s too soon to tell whether Johnson may issue similar orders for the other counties under her purview, including Allen.

“We’ll see how it goes in the other counties, to determine if extra steps are necessary,” she said.

The most recent cases were related to large gatherings, and most are related to travel outside of Bourbon County, Johnson said.

Bourbon County has reported nine new cases since Monday.

Also Wednesday, Johnson reported two more COVID-19 cases in Allen County. Those individuals also are in isolation, she said.

THE ASSOCIATED Press reported that Wednesday saw more than 500 positive tests reported in two days, the largest jump in coronavirus cases in more than six weeks.

The state health department reported the spike two days after Gov. Laura Kelly urged local officials to postpone lifting their last restrictions on businesses and public activities for another two weeks, recommending that they still limit public gatherings to 45 people. The Democratic governor ended statewide restrictions May 26, leaving decisions about the rules to the state’s 105 counties, after weeks of complaints from the Republican-controlled Legislature that she was moving too slowly to reopen the state’s economy.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, expressed concern about the latest increase. Kelly called for slowing down the state’s reopening Monday, following two weeks that saw the average daily rise in new cases increase, along with the percentage of positive results from tests, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“This is not surprising, given the laxity people have been demonstrating in protecting themselves and others,” Norman said Wednesday in a text relayed by his staff.

The Department of Health and Environment reported a total of 12,970 cases of the novel coronavirus, up 4.1% from Monday. Of the 505 new cases, 416 or 82% were not from clusters of two or more cases linked to a single location, such as a nursing home, or an event, such as a public gathering.

The state also reported an additional two COVID-19-related deaths since Monday, bringing the total to 261 since the pandemic began in early March.

The state hasn’t seen such a spike in new cases since the first half of May, when it stopped updating its figures daily. The state reported 410 new cases on May 7, another 357 on May 8, and then 615 new cases for the three days ending May 11.

Kansas has had more than 2,100 new cases of the novel coronavirus over the past two weeks, a 20% increase.

But COVID-19-related deaths have risen more slowly, 9% or by 21 during the past two weeks. Hospitalizations have increased 13% over the past two weeks, up 128 to 1,082.

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