Health officials say that a recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is not surprising, and follows the progression trends seen nationally.
Riley County now reports 4 positive patients in treatment at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan. At the beginning of last week, no confirmed patients had been admitted. The county also saw 6 new positive tests and 4 recoveries since Tuesday.
Overall, 113 cases are active, 289 recoveries have been reported and 3 have died of 411 confirmed cases in Riley County. Additionally, 197 tests are still pending and 3,986 tests have come back negative. Overall, 4,594 tests have been administered.
In Pottawatomie County, 5 active cases are reported along with 98 recoveries out of 103 confirmed cases. 24 tests are pending. Overall, 1,823 tests have been administered.
AVCH President and CEO Bob Copple says current hospitalizations follow national trends of 10 to 14 day delays between exposure and positive tests and again a delay of a similar time period since testing positive and hospitalization rates increasing. Often, he says the infections flare up in younger folks — many of whom experience milder symptoms — before moving on to middle aged and older adults.
Locally, that’s held up. Last week, 2 patients in their 20s were hospitalized. One has since been discharged while another was sent to a facility that offers a higher level of care. Currently in Via Christi, one patient is in their 30s, one in their 70s and two in their 80s.
Copple says nationally, they’re seeing hospitalization rates rising among those infected during Memorial Day activities. He says they’ve probably yet to see the impact of July 4th at this time and that physicians are anticipating further increases in hospitalization rates over the current 4 in the coming weeks. Copple says the decrease in active cases in the last week will have a similar impact on overall hospitalizations on a similar time frame.
Health Officer Julie Gibbs also notes that while those numbers look more promising, it is not the time to let up on taking health precautions like frequent hand sanitizing, physical distancing, staying home when sick and wearing a face covering when in public.
Copple says those areas seeing the most positive progress are the same that have increased their adherence to those precautions, be it through ordinance or recommendation. He says overall, the precautions are also having ‘downstream benefits’ for businesses as fewer employees are falling ill and businesses are able to remain open.
The Kansas Board of Education Wednesday also voted 5-5 on the governor’s order to move K-12 start dates back past Labor Day. Without a majority, the decision remains in local hands. Gibbs says she was initially encouraged by the decision, saying it gave schools more time to plan for hybrid instruction and the potential for a shift to online classes depending on the virus’ progress.
But she says without that in place, she has faith that local districts will make the right decision for them given their particular circumstances. Gibbs says she’s in regular contact with area educational institutions, and that the health department is available to help out if any districts need guidance.
Childcare Licensing Supervisor Heather Ritchey also advised parents be mindful of where they travel and bring their children, especially as school approaches and if they utilize daycare services. She says exposures can greatly impact daycare operations, noting one positive could result in a center closing and cause numerous families to have to find an alternative on the fly as well have health consequences.
While 293 recoveries have been reported, the road to full recovery can take longer. To be declared recovered, individuals must test negative, lose their fever without the aid of drugs and see improvement in other conditions and symptoms as well. But Copple noted that the small percentage that sees more serious symptoms and complications could be at higher risk of heart attack, clotting disorders, pulmonary embolism. He further says a lot is unknown about these long-term impacts, but even those with mild symptoms in some cases have experienced lung scarring that will cause life-long pulmonary issues and require rehabilitation.
Copple also says the drug remdesivir and treatment with convalescent plasma are also being tried as potential therapies for COVID patients, though says the benefits vary with the patient. The hospital is currently part of a study on convalescent plasma through the Mayo Clinic.
Those with COVID-19 symptoms are can call the screening line Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions can also be directed to Rileycountycovid19@gmail.com. Masks can also be acquired for free from Konza United Way on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. Visit KonzaUnitedWay.org for more information.