A surge of COVID-19 cases in Allen County and across the region concerns Rebecca Johnson, director of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments.
Less than two months ago, Allen County had no confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
This week, there are at least 37 positive cases.
Since the pandemic began, at least 1,329 cases have been reported in Allen County with 20 deaths attributed to the virus.
Across the state and country, surging COVID-19 cases have been attributed to the delta variant. Johnson said the delta variant is responsible for at least some of the local cases but not every case is tested for the variant.
In response to the increasing illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, the CDC issued new guidance. It includes recommendations that even those who are fully vaccinated should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of high transmission. The agency also recommends indoor masking for teachers, staff and students in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
“School is a concern because of the amount of children that aren’t able to get vaccinated yet or who are old enough and are not vaccinated,” Johnson said.
“Some children may not have as serious of symptoms as adults, but they can still carry it home to their parents, grandparents or others who are immunocompromised.”
She cited concerns about long term care and assisted living facilities, as well as daycares, as places where the virus can quickly spread.
Johnson understands the frustration area residents feel as the spread of the virus brings back the potential for more restrictive measures like wearing masks.
“They are tired of the seclusion and are yearning to be around family and friends again. They miss activities, festivals and gatherings, just like everyone else,” she said. “We all want to get back to our ‘norm,’ including me.”
Taking precautions can make a big difference, even now, she said.
“ I still avoid large gatherings, have gotten vaccinated and do my best at mitigation to try to be a good example for others. I’d like to see more people taking precautions, especially when they come to work sick or attend some event while ill. Just simply staying home when you know you’re not well could end up saving a life with this ongoing pandemic.”
Vaccination efforts continue at the health department, pharmacies and other health care facilities.
The health department has Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available for those age 18 and older. Call 620-365- for an appointment.
The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas has the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and older.
“I’ve heard of lots of ideas to increase vaccination rates, but nothing recently that seems like it has made a large impact,” Johnson said.
“We’ve offered COVID-19 vaccines to the public for months now, as well as to businesses. We plan to keep carrying the vaccines as long as there is a need. When/if a booster is recommended, we’ll administer those as well.”
A summary of Johnson’s advice:
Educate yourself with credible information. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the CDC’s website are filled with useful, easy to understand information.
Get vaccinated if you’re able.
Wear a mask in large gatherings.
Use good hand hygiene.
Social distance when possible.
Stay home when sick.