Finney County Commission gets current information on pandemic

Representatives from the Finney County Health Department and Finney County Emergency Management gave updates on the COVID-19 situation within the county at Monday’s Finney County Commission meeting.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director said as of Monday morning there were 550 total positive cases of COVID-19 within the county.

Within the first 45 days of testing they performed 518 tests which resulted in 239 positives, including one death. That’s approximately a 46 percent positive rate, Drees said.

Over the four days following the Health Department performed 519 tests, resulting in 300 positives, including two deaths. That’s approximately a 58 percent positive rate, Drees said.

In the last four days they have 125 percent greater positives than in the past 45 days and it took less than 10 percent of that time to reach that.

“This leaves no doubt that our residents and visitors have a much greater chance to contract the COVID-19 virus,” she said. “This is why Dr. (Lindsay) Byrnes and I have pushed forward with doing the additional one-week of the Stay-At-Home order.”

Byrnes, Finney County medical director, said the testing criteria has widened. The county widens its criteria every time the Kansas Department of Health and Environment broadened their criteria.

Byrnes said the criteria is based on whether or not there is contact with a positive case, a household contact or people are displaying symptoms.

“Fever, cough, respiratory distress were the initial symptoms; those have now been found to be not as sensitive and the symptoms have broadened to cough, headache, sore throat, muscle ache and loss of taste or smell,” she said.

Fever is a common symptom but it can come in at varying times through the course of the illness, Byrnes said. Screening with temperatures has not proven to be as effective a screening mechanism because it’s not reliable.

The same with shortness of breath, Byrnes said. It doesn’t occur until late into the illness when people are in extremis.

Byrnes said ideally they would love to test all asymptomatic people, especially those in a setting where there has not been the ability to do appropriate social distancing like the jail, long-term care facilities and meat-packing plants, but that’s not available to them because of the limited amount of testing.

COVID-19 is unpredictable, Byrnes said; it’s not only a respiratory disease but it also effects blood vessels and may be why they are seeing an uptick in strokes or other cardiac related conditions.

While those who have underlying conditions are at a higher risk to contract the virus, that does not mean there isn’t risk for everyone else, Byrnes said.

In regards to releasing people from COVID-19 related isolation, KDHE’s guidelines are that someone needs to be asymptomatic for 72 hours, or a minimum of seven days after their positive test to be considered eligible from isolation, Byrnes said.

“We know with the natural course of this disease, people can get sick later than that and present to the hospital in more (extremis) later than that,” she said. “So I think there is some variability there.”

In regards to opening the county up, Drees said the recommendation from KDHE and the federal level is two weeks of a decline in positive cases as well as a decline in hospitalizations.

Finney County hasn’t seen that yet, Drees said.

Stephen Green, Finney County Emergency Management director, said there are still PPE challenges within the county.

“We’re getting new coordination from the state, and our private communities are still reaching out to us,” he said. “We disseminate those supplies when we can.”

Additionally the department is communicating with United Way to build a support structure around those that test positive and is working with food banks, looking at contingencies.

Green said they are also working on sheltering contingencies because it’s now storm season.

“We’re sensitive to that, to make sure we’re functioning and ready to activate if needed,” he said.