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Preparing for Thanksgiving looks quite a bit different this year in Johnson County as residents grapple with the effects of COVID-19. In addition to stocking up on turkey and cranberry sauce, residents are flocking to get COVID-19 tests.
“The demand has been high,” said Barbara Mitchell, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment spokesperson. “JCHDE’s appointments have filled up rapidly in the last couple of weeks.”
But a COVID-19 negative test doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to attend in-person Thanksgiving celebrations with people outside your household, JCDHE said.
“A COVID-19 test only tells you if you’re infected with the virus the moment you take the test,” JCDHE tweeted. “You could still become infectious after a negative test.”
Mitchell said JCDHE added additional appointment opportunities last week to help keep up with demand, and when no testing is available JCDHE refers individuals to other testing sites in the area.
Health officials say all of the additional testing has also led to a modest decrease in an important metric: the percentage positive rate.
Increased asymptomatic testing drives down percentage positive rate
The percentage positive rate is down slightly. As of Wednesday, the county’s COVID-19 dashboard showed it at 15.1%. That’s compared to last week’s 16.5%. But this decline is not an indicator that COVID-19 cases are improving in the county, said JCDHE director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh.
In fact, cases per 100,000 residents is up to 820 this week, compared to 775 last week.
“We have had a large number of individuals in our community get tested, likely because of the Thanksgiving holiday (testing prior to seeing family),” Holzschuh wrote in an email to the Post. “The large number of those with no symptoms, who will likely test negative, will drive down the percent positive.”
Health officials urge residents to celebrate safely
With hospitalizations increasing across the state, due to a mix of COVID-19 patients and regular seasonal illnesses, health officials are pleading with residents to celebrate safely.
“We understand the need to celebrate with loved ones, but we encourage people to do so safely and to look for creative ways to celebrate with family and friends while protecting one another,” said Kristi Zears, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Zears said celebrating virtually or keeping in-person celebrations limited to members of your own household poses the lowest risk for spread.
“In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households poses varying levels of risk,” Zears said.
Recent COVID-19 coverage:
- CDC publishes research showing Kansas mask mandates helped drive down COVID-19 infections
- How JoCo health experts are spending Thanksgiving — and their recommendations for you
- As COVID-19 cases increase in JoCo, USD 232 in De Soto will allow some fans in for winter sports
- ‘We’re on fire’ — University of Kansas Health System says it now has 100 ‘active’ COVID patients
- RideKC rolls back lower-use routes following COVID-19 related staffing shortages
- Shawnee Mission Faces: Carron Montgomery, local counselor and mental health advocate