Health director makes case for masks to stop COVID spread

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

PLEASANTON – Over a seven-day span between July 28 and Aug. 4, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Linn County jumped by 50. That is the second largest increase in cases since the pandemic began last year, according to Tisha Coleman, director of the Linn County Health Department in Pleasanton.

The number of active COVID-19 cases dropped slightly to 65 during that week. Of those, four were hospitalized, with one patient in intensive care on a ventilator.

All Linn County communities had cases with the most in Pleasanton with 20 positive tests, according to the report. Mound City had 15; La Cygne, 14; Prescott, 5; Linn

Valley, Parker and Centerville, 3 each; and Blue Mound, 2.

Twelve of the cases were in children up to 17 years old. Young adults ages 18 to 34 had 17 cases. Twenty-one of the cases were ages 35 to 64, and 14 were in a group that included 65 and older. In one case, the age was unknown.

While there are now 10 confirmed cases of the more highly contagious Delta variant, Coleman said she expects most – if not all – of the tests recently submitted to show positive results for that strain. At least five of the above communities have had tests come back with the Delta variant.

Coleman, who has said that not everyone who is infected with the coronavirus gets a test, indicated that for each positive test, there are likely more people infected.

A total of 993 Linn County residents have tested positive since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to Wednesday's report. That number was up from 943 the week before.

Of those, 914 people have recovered. All of the 14 deaths attributed to COVID in Linn County have been people 55 and older.

Coleman wore a mask during her report to the Linn County Commission on Monday, Aug 2.

She told commissioners that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended masks for everyone age 2 and older. So, the CDC, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Linn County Health Department are recommending masks, she added.

“I want to talk to you a little bit about this,” Coleman said. The pandemic is reaching a new phase that is more dangerous and reeking havoc on the unvaccinated, she added.

“I am vaccinated and back to wearing a mask indoors and at public places where physical distancing cannot happen or there is poor air quality.” Coleman told the commissioners. “The masks reduces my exposure and others’ exposure to me. Some hospitals are full and those that aren’t continue to fill rapidly.”

She said there were long-term effects of COVID, some of which are known and some of which are not. Coleman said she didn’t want to be a vector or a person to spread coronavirus.

“It’s more than just about me. There are the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the unvaccinated,” she said, adding that there is no vaccination for children under the age of 12.

“The risk is high for contracting the virus. I am trusting my vaccine , however, I do understand its limits,” Coleman explained, adding that those who receive the vaccination often are less ill or don’t become ill at all.

“Wearing something covering my face and nose, I don’t like it but it does not appear to be a great expense to me. Especially, when there is a pandemic that is more transmissible and now affects the young population,” she said.

Coleman, who had COVID-19 last year and lost a family member to the virus, said she did not want to suffer the effects of the coronavirus again.

The Linn County Health Department is available to answer questions about masks and COVID, Coleman said. “We are there for anyone who wants to give us a call.”

The county commission has not implemented a mask mandate since the pandemic began 16 months ago. And it opted the county out of a statewide mask mandate implemented by Gov. Laura Kelly last year along with many rural counties.

In a related matter, Coleman said that the health department had been dramatically busy the last couple of weeks and that she wanted to replace a temporary nurse who left. The position will work at the department until November 2022 and is paid for by grant money.

Commission Chair Rick James asked if this position was necessary, and Coleman answered, “Absolutely.” The commissioner gave her the green light to advertise for the position.

Coleman also reported that the health department had received a grant of $15,000 to help with the vaccination process from the Patterson Family Foundation. It is a rural vaccination site grant and includes monies for staffing, supplies, technology, and other similar costs.

The Patterson Family Foundation is the group that sent Linn County masks last spring. It is a family-led foundation extending the legacy of Neal and Jeanne Patterson that strives to lift up rural communities through healthcare, education, economic opportunities and beyond, Coleman said.

The health department director said 1,275 have received their full two-dose series of the Moderna vaccine, and 112 have received the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, she said.

Vaccinations are free at the health department clinic on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. Pharmacies and clinics across the county also have free vaccinations.

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