TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas on Wednesday reported its largest seven-day increases in both COVID-19-related deaths and new coronavirus cases.
The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas had another 67 deaths since only Monday, an increase of 8.7 percent, to bring the total for the pandemic to 838. The state has reported 115 additional deaths over the past seven days, for an average of 16 a day.
Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s top administrator, said 60 of the new deaths were reported as it reviewed death certificates from previous weeks and added ones it had previously missed to its count. Deaths as of Wednesday represented 1.2 percent of reported cases, slightly higher than during the previous month.
The state also said it had 1,293 new confirmed or probable cases over two days, a 1.9 percent increase that brought the total for the pandemic to 69,155.
The state averaged 743 new cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, surpassing the record of 736 set for the seven days ending Monday. Since October began, the health department has updated its coronavirus figures six times, and for five of its reports, the state has averaged 600 or more new cases a day over a seven-day period.
“The numbers are getting worse,” Norman said during a Statehouse news conference.
State health officials worry that hospitals will come under increasing stress from the pandemic as it continues alongside the state’s normal flu season. Norman said the state hasn’t seen much flu yet.
While the state’s five most populous counties accounted for about 43 percent of the state’s 9,400 new cases over the past two weeks, dozens rural counties among the remaining 100 have seen proportionally larger spikes.
Norman said he believes some Kansas residents don’t understand that they can get infected through family members and are still attending funerals and weddings despite warnings against public gatherings.
Dr. Beth Oller, a family physician in northwest Kansas, said the virus has been spreading there because of events like weddings, baby showers and birthday parties. Of the 130 cases in the county of 5,000 during the pandemic, 100 have been reported since Sept. 1.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly imposed a statewide stay-at-home order this spring that remained in effect for five weeks. Oller said for rural areas, it was like “going into the cellar for the tornado that never came.”
“Even though those of us in public health were saying, ‘It’s coming! It’s coming! We can’t stop being diligent,’ you get that pandemic fatigue,” she said. “It’s harder to keep that diligence up.”
Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city of Wichita, said County Commissioner Jim Howell tested positive Wednesday for the coronavirus. The county said he is isolating himself at home and working from there.
In a short statement, Howell said he’d been “slightly symptomatic.” when he decided to get tested.
The state shows Cowley County with 464 cases as of Monday. Those include inmate infections at the Winfield Correctional Facility. A report on the Department of Corrections website shows 28 inmate cases total with four active, although the figures had not been updated since Oct. 7.
Local health department figures on its website stood at 398 total with 35 active, 354 recovered and nine deaths. Those figures had not been updated for at least two days. They do not include WCF cases.
The Chautauqua County Health Department reported 25 cases with three active. Sumner County on Monday reported 231 total cases with 24 active, 203 recoveries and four deaths.
Sedgwick County reported 61 new cases on Monday with 9,523 total. There had been 107 deaths but no new deaths added Monday. Butler County reported 723 total cases with 101 active. There have been three deaths.
In Oklahoma, Kay County has seen 771 cases so far with 646 recoveries and 15 deaths. Most of the cases, 606, and deaths, 12, have occurred in Ponca City; 516 have recovered.
Newkirk has had 62 infections, one death and 47 recoveries.
CourierTraveler Publisher David A. Seaton contributed to this report.