Weekly COVID-19 Update: ‘Preparing for the surge’ — JoCo health officials brace for post-Thanksgiving wave; Kansas begins vaccine planning

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While new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have slightly decreased or flatlined in Johnson County and areas across the state, things are not always as they appear, warned state and local health officials.

“Hospitalizations were lower seemingly from the holidays but appear to be climbing back up now. And, hospitals like KUMC are preparing for the surge,” Johnson County health director Sanmi Areola told the Shawnee Mission Post Wednesday.

Local health officials said they are expecting to see a second wave of infections within the next week as a result of Thanksgiving gatherings, and anyone who traveled for Thanksgiving celebrations should behave as if they were infected and self-isolate.

“…The best thing to do if you have been traveling is to quarantine yourself for a period of time and consider that you probably were infected,” said Johnson County Public Health Officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster in an online briefing.

LeMaster noted that individuals are most infectious about two days before symptoms start and five days after.

“So it’s possible that you would have returned from Thanksgiving, not have symptoms and still have been infected with the virus and not know yet,” he said.

Health leaders say decrease in recorded cases caused by lack of testing on Thanksgiving

New COVID-19 infections have slightly trended down over the previous week, according to the JCDHE COVID-19 dashboard. The county is currently averaging 336 new infections per day with an incidence rate of 757 new cases per 100,000 residents — down almost 8% from last week.

The percentage positive also continued its downward trend, though health officials said this metric has been impacted by increased testing ahead of the holidays.

There were nine additional COVID-19 related deaths in Johnson County last week. Data via Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Infections have also trended down across the state, but Dr. David Wild, vice president of Performance Improvement at The University of Kansas Health System, said he believed this decline is “directly related” to decreased testing over Thanksgiving.

During the University of Kansas Health System’s Wednesday press briefing, Wild said the peak of COVID-19 cases in Kansas happened around Nov. 26, which coincided with Thanksgiving when the state ran “significantly” less tests.

“So we would expect less positives,” he said.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Kansas Health System, agreed that decreased testing contributed to the decrease in new cases.

Hawkinson said he didn’t think the state’s already-stressed hospitals were “out of the woods” yet as increased hospitalizations typically lag about 10 to 12 days behind peaks in new cases.

“I know our ICUs are really strained for beds right now,” he said.

Kansas expects vaccine delivery mid-December

The state of Kansas is planning for COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered in mid-December to pre-selected, undisclosed locations.

“From these locations, vaccine will be distributed broadly to provide vaccine coverage to
healthcare workers,” KDHE said in its release. “As vaccine supplies increase, additional populations will be targeted.”

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to be delivered through two separate injections, with the second dose given 21 to 28 days after the first dose.

You can view the state’s full vaccination plan here.