County experiencing sharp rise in COVID-19 cases

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department, made an announcement on Election Day that she did not want to make.

She announced that the county was dealing with 123 active COVID-19 cases — and that number had risen very dramatically in a short amount of time.

“Last week at this time, we had 57 active cases. There has been a large increase — more than double in one week,” Redington said. “It causes concern on a number of levels.”

This week, the health department reported one new death from the disease.

Current active clusters include AGCO of Hesston, Kidron Bethel Villiage of North Newton, Hesston College and Bethel College of North Newton.

One of those levels is obvious on the online county dashboard — area hospital access is in the red category. While Newton Medical Center is treating only two cases of COVID-19 at this time, rising cases across the region are creating a concern.

Between COVID-19 patients and treating other medical issues, area hospitals are feeling a pinch.

“We are having a large influx into the hospitals,” Redington said. “[That is] for a lot of different reasons, COVID being one of the main ones. We want folks to be aware that our hospitals are beginning to feel some of that stress.”

The dashboard moved from a green category all the way to red in one day.

“It was the urgency that we were seeing outside of Harvey County,” Redington said. “I know that there were some cases coming from outside of the state to some of those hospitals. ... We were waiting for more of a surge to occur and we were anticipating that. ... We saw this happening.”

Also in the red category are contacts and tracing — tasks performed by the health department. The goal is to reach out to close contacts of those who have tested positive with the virus within 24 hours.

With the sharp rise in cases, that has become a daunting task.

“We are becoming overwhelmed to a point,” Redington said. “We are using the resources of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They have some contact tracers for us and some disease investigators for us. ... They are putting more staff on up there, and we are evaluating that in Harvey County — more staff to assist us.”

She encouraged those who test positive to call their friends and family as the case is investigated, and for those who get such a call to consider self-quarantine.