Sedgwick County health officer says more intervention needed to slow COVID-19

Sedgwick County’s chief health officer is calling for more interventions in the community to limit the spread of COVID-19, as the county and the state of Kansas continue to see more new cases.

Dr. Garold Minns made the comments during a special meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission on Thursday.  Dr. Minns said there is no precise answer why cases are going up, but he suggested several factors.   He said the reopening of schools may have been a component, along with sports and activities that are leading to more human contact.  He said he is not criticizing the schools because they have done a good job in limiting the spread of the virus.    Another factor may be colder weather that is keeping more people indoors and at indoor events.

Dr. Minns said he has heard from people who have attended wedding events about people not wearing masks during the reception.  He said the county may have to talk with event planners about precautions for COVID-19, and the county may have to restrict the size of events.    He said the planners need to take more responsibility.   He also said businesses should be encouraged to be more careful to restrict patrons who aren’t obeying the mask order, and the county may have to do more to get the message to the public about the need for masks and social distancing.

Dr. Minns said the virus is spread through human contact, and he said the upcoming holiday season has the potential to increase the spread with family gatherings.  He said there is generally good compliance with the county’s mask order, but it’s not as good as it could be.

County commissioners also heard from chief medical officers Sam Antonios with Ascension Via Christi and Lowell Ebersole with Wesley Medical Center.    Dr. Antonios said there are concerns with staffing as cases increase.  He said 75 to 80 percent of the patients at Via Christi are Sedgwick County residents, and the rest are from other areas of Kansas.  Dr. Ebersole said two thirds of the patients at Wesley are from Sedgwick County, and some are from other counties, and there has been an influx of patients from Oklahoma, Texas and other states.  Oklahoma has reported a record number of hospitalizations and there are concerns in Oklahoma and Texas over capacity and staffing.    Dr. Ebersole said he is very concerned about the future and “we’re being taxed and stressed at this point already with our staff.”     Both hospitals have no ICU beds left for COVID-19 patients.

Sedgwick County health officials reported an increase of 480 cases Thursday for a total of 13,549 for the pandemic.  Two new deaths have brought the county’s total to 137.   The positive testing rate in the county is 19.5 percent, the highest since the pandemic started.