COVID-19 testing increasing in Finney County

Meghan Flynn
The Jennie Barker Road construction project is underway. The road is closed south from Mary Street to Schulman Avenue.

An update on the COVID-19 situation in Finney County was given at the Finney County Commission meeting Monday.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, said testing for COVID-19 and the number of positive cases have increased in the county.

“We’ve more than doubled our testing numbers since returning to the health department in a month,” she said. “That first week we did 64 (tests) and now we’ve tested 136 this last week, so we’ve more than doubled.”

Testing for COVID-19 in Finney County has moved back to the health department from the drive-thru testing facility previously set up at the Finney County Fairgrounds.

Drees said that in the first week back at the health department 64 people were tested, with 12 people coming back positive for a positivity rate of 19%.

The week of June 29 was a four-day testing week because of the July 4 holiday. Of 61 people were tested, 12 came back positive for a positivity rate of 20%.

The week of July 6, 81 people were tested and 20 were positive, for a positivity rate of 22%.

The week of July 13-17, 136 people were tested and 25 came back positive for a positivity rate of 18%.

Drees said people are still being screened to be tested. The criteria, at both the county and state level, is that people must have at least one symptom of COVID-19 before they can be tested.

People still have to call the health department/COVID-19 hotline, 620-272-3600, to talk about possible exposure to a positive, what symptoms they have and to schedule an appointment.

Drees said the health department was surprised to not see positive case increases after Mother’s Day and some graduations, but it is seeing upticks now.

When looking at exposures, the state has identified places where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing, possible sharing of food or drinks as hot spots.

Drees said test specimens are picked up by a courier and taken to Topeka between 11:45 a.m. and noon each day, and health officials would like to modify that schedule.

“Previously, when we talked to our courier about expanding testing and picking up in Finney County at the end of the day, it was like a $500 price tag,” she said. “We're looking at revamping some of that or finding a creative way of doing courier to Topeka.”

Currently the county is always about two weeks behind with test results.

In other business, county engineer John Ellermann gave updates on the Jennie Barker Road project and Farmland Road project.

Work has begun on Jennie Barker Road, Ellermann said. Contractors have completed work on the box and have started on the retention pond. However, rain has slowed down work on that.

“We've up and moved some of the vaults for the utility trench into place Thursday, the contractor was starting to dig trenches for the utility,” he said. “There’s still a little bit of work around the box. That's the work that's being done right now.”

The project is on schedule as far as he knows, Ellermann said. The project is expected to run for 215 working days, and as of July 17 it was on Day 17.

Ellermann said the Farmland Road project is still in the process of negotiating with property owners for right-of-way land acquisitions.

The county also approved an agreement with iParametrics to assist with Disaster Recovery Services in the SPARK grant process for a total of $56,396.

It will do this by completing a community needs assessment on how to spend the funds; designing, developing and administering programs using CARES Act funding from the state to reduce the impact of COVID-19; developing a spending plan to submit to the state; handling reporting requirements for the SPARK funding; handling all FEMA Public Assistance Grants regarding COVID-19; coordinating with the state and federal agencies on the county’s behalf in support of recovery efforts; and evaluating and pursuing potential grant opportunities from the state and federal government to aid the county.