As the number of coronavirus cases continue to grow in Cowley County, the good news is that no one as of Tuesday was hospitalized due to the illness, and fatalities associated with the disease so far remain at one.
Nearly 1,200 COVID-19 tests had been done since the pandemic began in March. One case was added for 42 total, with 35 active infections.
Public Health Officer Thomas Langer praised the health department’s partnership with local hospitals, which he said are prepared should hospital care for COVID patients become necessary.
“Both hospitals have been great in handling tests, especially during the outbreak when we have been at or near our testing capacity,” Langer said.
It is not known yet whether the COVID-positive teen who swam at Paris Park Pool in Arkansas City and attended a slumber party in Ark City last week has led to more infections, he said.
“The case of the tested teen has lead to numerous people being tested and placed into quarantine,” Langer said. “We will know more when the results are back tomorrow evening or early Thursday a.m.”
Asked about decisions to not hold the Cowley County Fair and the Walnut Valley Festival, Langer said leaders of those events came to their own conclusions with input from others in addition to public health.
The county remains in Phase 3 of reopening plans, which does not allow crowds of that size. In late May, Langer said moving to Phase 4, or phase out, would depend on health indicators remaining stable. But he also said back then that if the disease spread the health department would react.
On Tuesday, Langer added that phasing out “would be based on how the community responds and how responsible individuals are.”
There are just two local cases of people testing positive without symptoms, Langer said. That’s because most people who get tested do so after experiencing symptoms.
People possibly exposed to the virus might be asked to wait up to two days before being tested, because that is when enough of the virus is present to detect.
“We place them under isolation (quarantine) orders and watch for symptoms,” Langer explained. “Generally within 2-3 days of exposure the body has reacted and the virus can be sampled via nasopharyngeal swabbing.”
The local cases are occurring across all races and age groups, he said, and COVID-19 does not discriminate by gender.
Social interaction with an infected person spreads the virus. Langer laid out the example of somebody going to a social event and being exposed there, experiencing symptoms but dismissing them as having too much fun over the weekend, then riding in a car pool to work.
“What I have laid out as an example is actually what we believe occurred in our county,” Langer said, noting that cases have jumped from four to more than 40 in less than three weeks.
“Not all (are) inter-related, but all have occurred simultaneously within the community over the past few weeks. Sadly I can predict that the new cases are not yet done.”
Organizations have done well to prevent the spread of the disease and communicate their safety expectations, he said.
“If we as individuals remain indifferent to risk and believe that taking precautions are only meant for everyone else BUT ME, then we are in for a long rest of the year and a great deal of illness ahead,” Langer said.
The new normal of social distancing, frequent hand washing, sanitizing, covering any cough or sneeze, avoiding crowds and wearing a mask if you can is “the new normal and it will not be changing any time soon.”