• Roger Sims, Journal Staff

County feeling the effects of the omicron surge

Updated: Jan 22

UPDATE: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Friday morning, Jan. 14, that another 81 Linn County residents tested positive for COVID-19 between Wednesday morning and Friday morning. That brings up to 350 the number of new cases reported in the county since Jan. 3. The sale of at-home test kits that do not require reporting results and those who do not get tested despite having symptoms suggests that number is likely higher.

KDHE also reported that between Wednesday and Friday, there were more than 19,400 new cases reported across the state, with 21 new deaths and 122 new hospitalizations.

TOPEKA – The omicron variant of the coronavirus seems to be hitting the county with a vengeance after it was first detected in a positive test by the Linn County Health Department on Jan. 3.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment update for Wednesday, Jan. 12, showed that 223 new cases were reported for Linn County in the past seven days. That is more than twice as high as at any other week during the previous two years.

The largest surge was between Monday and Wednesday this week when KDHE reported 120 new cases in just two days. Friday’s report is not expected to bring better news.

There is some evidence that positive cases reported to the state may not be entirely accurate. Unlike health departments, schools, clinics and hospitals, people using in-home test kits likely do not report positive tests. And local health officials in the past have said that not every person who contracts the virus has a test taken.

Counties surrounding Linn County are fairing no better. Miami County had 458 new positive cases over the seven-day period ending Wednesday, Bourbon County had 349 new cases and Anderson County had 147.

Statewide, there were 22,240 new cases, 139 new hospitalizations and 27 new deaths between Monday and Wednesday, a two-day span. The state has now attributed 7,141 deaths to COVID-19.

The number of deaths of Linn County residents, according to KDHE, has remained steady at 23 for at least two weeks. However, that is six fewer deaths that health department reports showed before they were discontinued last month.

Jayhawk USD 346 cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday this week because of a high rate of absentees among students and staff. Since the district planned to close schools on Monday because of the Martin Luther King holiday, classes are set to resume on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Prairie View USD 362 announced on Thursday afternoon that it too was cancelling classes on Friday because of a COVID-19 outbreak. That district planned to not have school on the Monday holiday as well.

And while Pleasanton absentee rates were low on Wednesday, district officials warned parents to be on the lookout for symptoms in their students

Earlier in the week, La Cygne city officials posted on Facebook that the doors to offices at City Hall would be locked and business only done by telephone. City Clerk Jodi Wade said that one of the workers tested positive for COVID-19, and to keep the small staff operating the decision was made to quarantine the staff in hopes no one else would become ill.

And at least one business in the county has been forced to shutter temporarily because of illness.

Because of its high transmissibility, the omicron variant is infecting people who have received a two-shot vaccination and booster as well as those who remain unvaccinated. However, there is still evidence that those who are vaccinated don’t become as seriously ill as those who have not been vaccinated.

Although Linn County ranks on the low spectrum on the number of residents vaccinated, it reached 40 percent of the population 5 years and older having a full series of the vaccine. That is up from what it was a couple weeks ago.

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