USD 470 district staff to recommend continued masking

Since March 31

Case in Cowley County  957

Vaccinated                     86

Non-vaccinated            871

Source: City-Cowley County Health Department

The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down in Cowley County with more than 20 new cases averaged per day the first nine days of September.

The virus is spreading faster than in August, which averaged nearly 16 cases per day, according to information provided by the City-Cowley County Health Department. 

Active cases remain at about 100 per day with about 100 to 150 tests performed each day. Of the new 957 cases since March 31, 91 percent had occurred in unvaccinated people.

The 42 new cases recorded on Tuesday is the most since early February, according to state health department data. The high number is due in part to more results released on Tuesday after a lag during Labor Day weekend.

No new deaths were recorded in the past week as COVID-19-related mortalities in Cowley County remained at 117 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, school administrators of USD 470 in Arkansas City will recommend keeping a masking order in place when the school board meets Monday.

The district is asking for approval of a wide-ranging plan based on guidelines from the CDC and Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

The plan includes continued masking for all staff, students and visitors inside buildings, and ramped up testing of close contacts exposed without a mask so they can continue in-person learning, as long as they test negative each day for 10 days, according to written material presented to the board.

Superintendent Ron Ballard said the masking requirement implemented Sept. 1 is working. Students who are close contact and unvaccinated do not have to quarantine if they and the infected person were wearing masks.

“We will recommend a continuation of masking,” he said. “It is our best protection regarding the prevention of quarantines.”

The number of quarantined students in USD 470 dropped to 186 as of Friday afternoon from 259 a week ago. Staff cases increased, however, from two to six and quarantines jumped from 10 to 17.

Ballard said the number of people quarantine should drop more than 100 as of today, when many end their quarantine status.

The added testing would require hiring more personnel and KDHE grant funding can be used for that, the material states.

USD 465 in Winfield also plans to ask its board for more testing options during a meeting Monday, Superintendent Nathan Reed said.

That district, which has a limited masking requirement for crowded areas such as hallways and assemblies, had just 42 students in quarantine as of Friday, he said.

“We still continue to adhere to COVID protocols including emphasis on masks, social distancing and additional testing,” Reed said.

He emphasized that unvaccinated students must stay home if a family member tests positive.

Public Health Director Tom Langer, in his weekly COVID update, stated Friday the local health department is working with school districts on more testing to return kids back to class.

He also said that more large-scale events will occur as fall approaches, such as football games and the Walnut Valley Festival. These events provide a sense of community and emotional release for many, he added.

“You may be excited about what is occurring, or you may choose to not attend, we understand those perspectives and encourage you to make your best decision to attend or avoid these events,” Langer said. “Please remember to respect each other and be kind. Provide space between your group and others, and please, if you are ill, do not attend any public event.”

Langer also commented on vaccination mandates announced or reiterated this week by President Joe Biden. The mandates would apply to federal workers and contractors, certain health facilities and employees at businesses with more than 100 workers.

“Vaccination mandates are NOT being issued locally by the Public Health Officer,” Langer stated. “I urge everyone to allow the elected officials to battle ideological issues out. Contact them to voice your personal concerns.”

Langer said he highly endorses getting the vaccine “but will always take into consideration the decisions of individuals.” The department continues to offer both rapid and PCR tests to detect the virus in its daily drive-up lane. Call 620-221-1430 for an appointment.

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