TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas set new records Friday for its largest seven-day increases in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths with what its top public health official called “a generalized spread” of the COVID-19 virus.
The state has averaged more than 700 new cases a day this month, and the figure was a record 768 for the seven days ending Friday, beating the previous high mark of 757 for the seven days ending Wednesday. The state Department of Health and Environment reported 1,774 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.4% that brought the total for the pandemic to 76,230.
Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, said the generalized spread of the virus in Kansas has resulted from resistance to wearing masks in public, continuing to have mass gatherings, crowded school athletic events, and bringing students back to college and university campuses.
“This is absolutely what we’ve been predicting,” Norman said in a text to The Associated Press. “It is the natural consequence of not following the anti-contagion measures in our communities.”
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said this week that she wants to work with leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature on imposing a bipartisan, statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public. She issued such an order July 2, but state law allowed counties to opt out, and most did.
Top Republican lawmakers have argued against a “one-size-fits-all” mandate on diverse communities. But rural counties are seeing the largest numbers of new cases per 1,000 residents, and of the 20 counties with the biggest per capita spikes over the past two weeks, only two, Nemaha and Reno counties, have more than 10,000 residents.
Some Kansas elected officials have argued that a decline in the COVID-19 death rate since the start of the pandemic represents real progress as production of a widely available vaccine grows nearer. But in Kansas, where deaths represent about 1.3% of the reported cases, that figure has slowly inched up this month.
The state health department reported an additional 23 COVID-19-related deaths since Wednesday, bringing the pandemic total to 975. The state saw a record average of 16.57 new deaths a day during the seven days ending Friday, though some of that high mark can be attributed to earlier deaths being included when death certificates are reviewed by local and state health officials.
Kansas also reported another 78 coronavirus hospitalizations to bring the total to 3,584. The state averaged a record 31 new hospitalizations a day in the seven days ending Friday. The previous high mark was 29, also set earlier this month.
Kansas’ latest report comes as Missouri and perhaps a handful of other states are seeing alarming increases in hospitalizations but are unable to post accurate data on COVID-19 dashboards because of a flaw in the federal reporting system.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park has angered some residents and split local elected officials by allocating $350,000 in federal relief funds for buying cameras to broadcast games that are being played at an area soccer complex, The Kansas City Star reported. The Overland Park City Council voted 10-2 to approve the plan this week.
City officials argued that streaming games would allow families to watch their children play without having to sit in crowds during the pandemic.
But Johnson County Commissioner Mike Brown said “the optics” of the plan “aren’t sitting very well with a lot of people.” Overland Park City Commissioner Faris Farassati, who voted against the plan, said the expenditure seems unnecessary when people are losing jobs and unable to pay rent or utilities.