With new cases trending upward, regional health directors warn that COVID-19 concerns are far from over

Johnson County has seen the percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive climbing steadily since June 1. The moving seven-day average for positive test has increased from 1.9% at the start of the month to 4.5% on June 17. Pictured above COVID-19 tests are administered at a drive-thru testing site in Olathe. Photo via Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

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With hundreds of new confirmed cases in recent days, the Kansas City metro area’s health directors are warning the public that COVID-19 remains a serious concern and are urging people to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

Kansas City, Missouri, and Wyandotte County have accounted for the bulk of the new cases in recent days, but Johnson County has seen a notable increase as well. The county recorded 117 new confirmed cases between June 16 and 19.

Johnson County has also seen a relative spike in deaths from COVID-19, with eight new fatalities since June 14.

What’s more, Johnson County has seen the percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive climbing steadily since June 1. The moving seven-day average for positive test has increased from 1.9% at the start of the month to 4.5% on June 17, the most recent figure on the county’s tracking website.

“Unfortunately, it’s not over,” said Rex Archer, MD, director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, in a release late last week. “The Kansas City metropolitan region has seen a substantial increase in positive cases over the last couple of weeks. If you’re in a high-risk category, all of the KC Metro public health directors recommend for you to stay home when possible. If you need to go out, remember to maintain social distancing practices and always wear a mask. People who live with high-risk individuals should consider the same precautions.”

People at high risk urged to stay home when possible

The nine counties in the metro region have all seen a resumption of more normal life in recent weeks, with stay-at-home orders lifting and restrictions on businesses and gathering sizes easing. After months of living under restrictions, public health officials say, people may be feeling fatigue from the pandemic and an eagerness to fully return to normalcy. But the need to adhere to social distancing and hygiene recommendations is more important than ever.

“Many people are starting to return to regular activities, which makes taking precautions even more important,” said Juliann Van Liew, director of the Unified Government Public Health Department. “As tempting as summer weather and activities may be, it’s important to remember that continued vigilance is necessary. We can all help slow the transmission of this disease.”

As has been the case across the country, the most severe impacts of the virus have been born by the elderly. To date, 74 of the 80 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in Johnson County have been among people 70 or older. People aged 80 or older account for 64 of the deaths. Only two people under aged 60 have died from the disease.

The regional health directors note that, in addition to individual aged 65 and older, people with the following conditions should take special precautions to prevent exposure to the virus:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

More information about the risks associated with various activities and steps individuals can take to stop the spread of the virus are available here.