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EJC sees further decline in COVID-19 numbers

By Mike Genet

New COVID-19 cases in Eastern Jackson County fell steadily in January, and positive test percentages also dipped over the past month.

According to the Jackson County Health Department, which covers the county outside Kansas City, the rolling seven-day average of new cases was less than 66 as of last Tuesday, down from 108 a week earlier. At the beginning of January, that rolling average pushed 200.

The county’s dashboard does include Independence, which re-established its health department in December but does not yet have its own specific data.

The 14-day average of positive tests in Eastern Jackson County was at 25 percent last Tuesday, down from 27.7 percent the Friday before. That average had been in the low-40s in early January and steadily dropped.

The overall positive test percentage has held steady at about 20 percent for a couple weeks, with more than 138,500 people tested.

As of Friday afternoon, the county Health Department had confirmed more than 500 additional cases and nine additional deaths over the previous five days, for 27,990 total cases and 306 deaths across Eastern Jackson County since the pandemic began.

As of Friday morning the Kansas City Health Department had confirmed 35,504 cases and 431 total deaths – an additional 1,200 cases and 16 deaths over the previous week.

According to the Mid-American Regional Council’s dashboard, the nine-county metro area had more than 148,200 confirmed cases and 1,854 COVID-related deaths as of Sunday – nearly 5,000 additional cases and 110 additional deaths in a week’s time.

MARC’s dashboard showed the average new hospitalizations from COVID-19 in the metro area at 131 on Friday, down from 138 a week earlier and 180 at the beginning of the month.

Available hospital beds in the metro rose to 35 percent on Friday after staying at 34 for the previous weeks and 31 the two weeks before that. The percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients dropped to 9.6 percent, from 11 percent the previous Friday and 13 percent the week before that. Available ICU beds rose from 19 for a couple weeks to 21.5 percent on Friday, and COVID-19 patients accounted for nearly 22 percent of those beds, down from 26 percent last week.

All hospitalization data is based on a seven-day rolling average.

Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Kansas Health System, reiterated that the metro area has been rather fortunate regarding hospitalizations. 

“The mask culture has improved; we have gotten through those heavy times where people want to meet and gather,” Hawkinson said during a KU Health System briefing Monday. “In general, it’s just more and more people who are getting the message and doing the right thing.”

“Even if we weren’t testing and those case numbers weren’t coming in, we would see them in the hospital, and they’re not coming in.”

Steven Stites, the system’s chief medical officer, warned people not to let their guard down for Super Bowl gatherings.

“The virus does not take time off for the Super Bowl,” he said. “ The virus works overtime every day.”