Finney County Commission votes to move in to Phase 1.5 for reopening

The Finney County Commission voted to move into Phase 1.5 of reopening in conjunction with the state at the board’s regular meeting Monday.

Commission voted 4-1 to move into Phase 1.5, with commissioner William Clifford dissenting.

In discussion of the COVID-19 situation in Finney County, County Administrator Robert Reece said the county is seeing approximately 50% or more COVID-19 tests returning as positive.

“You have a positive rate of about 48%, close to 50%,” he said. “We have a lot of them pending. Once those are received we’ll get those updated and you’ll be able to see those trends.”

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, said the 48% positivity rate will fluctuate depending on what the pending results end up being.

Reece said the data is about a week behind because of the time lag for test results.

“We should see quite a few of those back actually today and tomorrow,” he said. “Traditionally Monday and Tuesday seems to be heavy with the results. That's what always kind of skews the positive box during the week.”

Drees said as of Monday morning Finney County has 1,234 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, with 1,276 negative cases, 222 pending cases, five deaths and eight hospitalizations.

Drees recommended that the commission remain in Phase 1 for another two weeks to continue gathering health-metric data, so they have a full two weeks of data to analyze Phase 1.

“I believe this data should be used to formulate how we move forward in the phases,” she said. “We have one, if not the highest positivity rate in the state. This should not be dismissed.”

At the beginning of last week Finney County has the fourth highest number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, and by last Friday it was the second, Drees said.

Drees said if she were to speculate, Finney County could have the highest caseload by the end of this week.

She urged the commissioners and local board of health to make decisions based on the metrics, increasing caseloads and/or positivity rates that Finney County is exhibiting, not following what the rest of the state or the surrounding counties are doing.

“We must evaluate our county separately; we are seeing a drastically different trend here than the rest of the state,” she said. “My best recommendation would be to continue Phase 1 for an additional two weeks, continue to gather data concerning our positivity rate, hospitalizations and also our number of COVID-19 related deaths before considering opening to Phase 1.5.”

A discussion with Dr. Lee Norman from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last Thursday echoed the recommendation, suggesting the county remain in Phase 1 until there is a decrease in the positivity rate, Drees said.

Drees read a letter from Dr. Lindsay Byrnes, Finney County Medical Director, at the meeting.

In the letter Byrnes said the data lag means that the number of deaths reported now “likely reflects infections acquired three to four weeks ago” when there were fewer cases.

“If our goal as I believe it should be is to lessen transmission, thereby limiting morbidity and mortality in our community, it does not make sense to proceed with reopening at the same pace as other counties that have much less transmission,” Drees read for Byrnes.