COVID-19 cases rise again in JoCo but actual counts could be ’10-20 times higher’ than official data

Johnson County's positivity rate is as high as it's been since last winter. Above, a sign asking for patrons at a doctor's office in Overland Park to wear masks. File photo.

As COVID-19 cases see another uptick in Johnson County, the monkeypox virus remains a much less urgent concern, according to county health officials.

Driving the news: At this week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, public health officials gave a community update on both viruses stand in Johnson County.

How COVID-19 is looking: In contrast, Johnson County currently sits at a 27.3% positivity rate for COVID-19, the highest that metric has been since this past winter.

  • According to recent data, positive cases of late mostly stem from the BA.5 variant, which tends to spread more easily but produces less severe symptoms.
  • The reported current incidence rate is 220 cases per 100,000 residents, which officials say is likely an undercount due to the reliance now on a-home testing the results of which must be self-reported to the county.
  • At-home test results can be reported to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment through this form.
  • “An estimate out there is cases could be 10, maybe 20 times higher than what we are seeing because of changes in the reporting system,” said Sanmi Areola, director of public health and environment for Johnson County.
Above, the most recently recorded COVID-19 data for Johnson County. Image from Johnson County documents.

Bigger picture: This comes as COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for children between 6 months and 5 years old, the youngest remaining age group.

  • Areola said the youngest children remains the lowest vaccinated age group in the county.
  • As of June, roughly 40% of Johnson Countians from ages 1 to 17 had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and roughly 10% had received an additional dose.
  • But only 6% of children ages 1 to 4 have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, according to county data.
  • “That’s going slow,” Areola said, referring to vaccination of young children. “Slower than we would have liked, but we’re making steady progress.”

What about monkeypox? In the meantime, Areola said monkeypox remains less of a concern with still only one recorded case of the disease in Johnson County since cases began spreading in the U.S. in recent weeks.

How is monkeypox different? It is a virus from the same “family” of viruses as smallpox.

  • Typical symptoms include a rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Officials say the virus is fairly rare and most cases are not fatal.
  • The first active case in Johnson County was identified earlier this month, and this remains the only recorded case so far in Kansas.
  • According to the CDC, monkeypox is much harder to spread than COVID-19, requiring direct contact with an infectious rash or bodily fluids, prolonged face-to-face contact, exposure during sexual contact or touching items previously touched by an infectious rash or secretions.