Osage County ‘reopens’ as COVID-19 cases rise

OSAGE COUNTY, Kan. – Coronavirus cases in Osage County continue to rise, as one school has announced it is closed this week due to the virus, and the Osage County Health Department reported a new positive case might have affected an athletic team in the county.

Today, Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 information page shows Osage County has had 22 total positive cases since the pandemic began.

Yesterday, July 7, OCHD reported that it was a rumor that a Santa Fe Trail USD 434 student had exposed other student athletes, but today the health department announced on social media, “We do now have a positive patient that has affected a county athletic team. This is a different case, in the north end of the county. If you are not contacted by the Health Department, you are not considered a close contact.”

A parent of a USD 434 student commented on the social media site that the school had contacted parents by email about the student COVID-19 case. USD 434 confirmed the school closure with this announcement yesterday on social media:

“The Osage County Health Department notified the district today that we have confirmed case(s) of COVID 19 in our school district. The individuals directly in contact with the positive case(s) will be notified by the Osage County Health Department to quarantine. The district was not informed of and will not disclose the names of those affected. The health and safety of our staff and students is our priority and the district has followed the cleaning guidelines provided by the CDC. A decision about weights, conditioning, and sports practices will be made towards the end of this week about the upcoming week. The decision on reopening will be based on the recommendation and guidance of the Osage County Health Department.”

The school district further announced that all athletic student activities at Santa Fe Trail High School are canceled this week.

“We will re-evaluate the situation at the end of the week and then announce the plans for the week of July 13-17, 2020,” the school notice said.

The health department did not confirm which school was affected by the positive case and would not identify where the infected or quarantined individuals lived other than the northern part of the county.

As of today’s count, OCHD shows there are 68 people quarantined in the county, 7 active cases, 14 recovered cases, and 922 negative test results. In other public statements, the health department said there has been one person from Osage County hospitalized due to the disease and no deaths.

Answering a social media poster, the health department said the new cases in the county are not yet considered community spread of the disease: “Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. So far, all of our positives (aside from household contacts) have been traced to sources outside our county. We do not currently have evidence of community spread within Osage County. However, the nature of a virus means it is just a matter of time before we do. We still strongly encourage social distancing, hand washing, staying home if sick, and wearing a mask when out in public.”

The new cases follow the Osage County commissioners’ action last week to reject Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to mandate mask wearing in public spaces statewide. The Osage County Board of Health cited the few COVID-19 cases in Osage County and little evidence of community spread of the disease, and that enforcement of the governor’s mandate to wear masks would be difficult as reasons for exempting the county.

Kelly’s order went into effect July 3, and requires most Kansans to wear a mask while in public spaces and in places where individuals are unable to maintain social distancing of six feet. During a special meeting July 2, county commissioners made the order to exempt Osage County from the governor’s order, following recommendations from the county health board.

The county commissioners also took action last week to rescind phase 3 of the county’s reopening plan, putting the county in phase four as of July 3, 2020.

The phase four order provides that mass gatherings will no longer be restricted in number, the use of face masks will not be mandated but strongly recommended in Osage County whenever in any public space, indoors or out, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained, and social distancing guidelines, good personal hygiene, and staying home if ill will be encouraged.

Under the reopening plan, businesses, schools, and other entities, public or private, can require patrons, customers, employees, or other people to wear masks when engaged in any activity within that entity.

As of Wednesday, Kansas had recorded 17,618 cases, 1,269 hospitalizations, and 282 deaths from the disease since the pandemic began. KDHE reports that Osage County has had a total of 22 cases since the pandemic began, with two new cases diagnosed yesterday and two Monday.

Osage County recorded its first case on March 26; the most cases diagnosed in a single day were three on June 27.

See related story: Osage County COVID-19 cases increase over holiday weekend
Kansas COVID-19 website: https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/160/COVID-19-in-Kansas

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Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas