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Local COVID spread remains high

By The Examiner staff

Changes at the state level in COVID-19 data measurement led to a change in dates for existing cases, causing a sharp rise in local new-case data last week, and those figures remained high this week.

A spokesperson for the Jackson County Health Department said that while the number of overall cases did not change, the date associated with them may have, potentially affecting all data that is date-dependent such as rolling averages of new cases and positive test percentage.

According to the dashboard of the Health Department, which covers the county outside Kansas City, the rolling seven-day average of new cases was at 138 on Friday, up from 132 a week earlier, though two weeks before that the dashboard showed the Friday figure at 88.

In addition, the rolling 14-day positive test percentage was at 38 percent Friday and had risen as high as 40 percent earlier in the week, up from 37 percent on Jan. 1 and 32 percent the week before. Three weeks ago, the department’s dashboard showed that Friday figure at 26.5 percent.

The 40 percent figure is the highest average yet in Eastern Jackson County, as total tests fell off in December from November levels. In EJC, the 14-day average has not been below 25 percent since Nov. 1, and health officials have advised a 14-day average of 10 percent or lower to indicate lower community spread.

The overall positive test percentage in EJC is 19 percent positive as of Friday – yet another increase from the previous week, this time six-tenths of a percentage point. The overall positive test percentage has not dropped from one week to the next since June.

The Health Department confirmed more than 1,400 additional cases for the second straight week for 25,479 total since the pandemic began. The case total as of Monday morning included 19 deaths in the last week for 262 total.

As of Monday morning, the Kansas City Health Department had confirmed more than 32,500 cases and 369 total deaths since the pandemic began, including 17 deaths and about 2,600 additional cases over the past 1 1/2 weeks.

According to the dashboard maintained by the Mid-America Regional Council, as of Sunday, there have been more than 138,600 confirmed cases and 1,713 deaths in the nine-country metro area.

“In the Kansas City area, there are these oscillations of low numbers and high numbers, and I think we’re kind of on the high trend right now as far as daily infections,” Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert with the University of Kansas Health System, said during a KU Heath System briefing Monday.

Also according to MARC’s dashboard, average new hospitalizations in the metro area rose dipped slightly to 169 on Friday, down from 180 a week earlier. The high figure had been 190 right before Thanksgiving. 

Available hospital beds in the metro rose dropped from 37 percent the previous week to 31 percent on Friday, though the percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients remained at 14 percent. Available ICU beds dropped again to 17 percent – down four percentage points from two weeks earlier – and COVID-19 patients account for 29 percent of those, another 2 percent drop from the previous week. 

All hospital figures are based on seven-day rolling averages.