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Kansas ‘losing the battle’ on COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ top public health official warned Friday that the state is “losing the battle” against the coronavirus as it reported another record increase in new cases.

The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas reported 1,855 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.9%, to bring the total for the pandemic to 65,807. The state also reported another 40 COVID-19-related deaths, increasing the pandemic total to 763. Twenty-six of those were reported Thursday in Shawnee County, where the local health department reviewed previous death certificates from the Topeka area.

“Other states are doing bad, and we’re doing worst than most,” Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state health department, said during an interview. “We’re losing the battle right now.”

The state saw an average of 671 new cases a day for the seven days ending Friday, breaking the state’s previous record of 667 for the seven days ending Sept. 28. The state has seen that seven-day average hit or exceed 600 cases per day for five of the six reports it has issued in the past two weeks.

Norman predicted last week that the state’s reporting of new cases could increase to as many as 900 a day on average in the coming months. COVID-19-related deaths have for about a month hovered around 1.1% of reported cases, but with Friday’s report, the figure was 1.16%, the highest in almost two months.


The actual number of cases is thought to be much higher because people can be infected without feeling ill or they may have only minor symptoms, and because of a lack of testing, particularly early in the pandemic. Norman said earlier this week that between 4% and 4.5% of the state’s population probably has been infected since the pandemic reached Kansas in early March — between 116,000 and 131,000 cases.

Norman blamed the increases on residents’ refusal to consistently follow public health guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding large public gatherings. He said people need to do all of them in tandem to check the virus’ spread.

“One of the things that we just have to collectively as a state start working together with is what are the social and psychological underpinnings for the reasons why for we’re going the direction we’re going,” Norman said. “Our curve is going absolutely the wrong direction.”

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Kansas health chief predicts bigger COVID-19 spikes to come

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top public health official in Kansas said Wednesday that the state has yet to see its biggest wave of coronavirus cases, suggesting the pandemic could spawn an average of 800 or even 900 new cases a day in coming months.

Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state Department of Health and Environment, said Kansas is likely to surpass the record numbers of new confirmed and probable cases it has recently seen. The state had an average of 646 new cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, second only to the 667 cases per day for the seven days ending Monday.

While the state’s most populous counties have continued to generate hundreds of new cases every week, rural areas also have been seeing spikes. And health department data released Wednesday showed that outbreaks have returned to the state’s prison system.

The health department said Kansas saw 1,120 new confirmed and probable cases since Monday, an increase of 1.9%, bringing the total to 59,729. Norman said he thinks the state will see cases level off at the current daily increases, then “take off” for a “second wave.”


Norman said the likelihood of larger numbers demonstrates the need for continued “vigilance” in wearing masks and social distancing. He said efforts in March and April that included a statewide stay-at-home order and the closing of K-12 schools, cut down on the numbers of new cases but, “we would prefer not to go down that road again.”

“We have a long ways to go,” Norman said during a Statehouse news conference. “That really brings up, focuses on, why we need a vaccine.”

The number of coronavirus cases is thought to be higher because people can be infected without feeling ill and because of limited testing early in the pandemic. Norman said he believes Kansas is “close” to having its actual number of cases represent 3% to 5% of its population — from 87,000 to 145,000 cases.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

In Kansas, COVID-19-related deaths continue to represent about 1.1% of the number of reported cases.

The state health department reported 41 new COVID-19-related deaths since Monday, bringing the total to 678. However, the department said 21 of those occurred earlier this year and were reported after officials examined death certificates.

The health department also reported that there are active clusters of five or more cases in four prisons and an inmate work-release program in Wichita. They account for 244 cases within the past 14 days.

The health department said the prison in Hutchinson has had 85 active cases in the past two weeks and the state’s prison mental health center in Larned has had 79.

The state saw a massive outbreak at its prison in Lansing earlier this