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Shawnee Co. issues new orders as COVID-19 cases increase

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 10:38 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A high number of coronavirus cases and increase in hospitalizations has the Shawnee County Health Department sounding the alarm.

The county is reporting 165 new COVID-19 cases this week and 20 hospitalizations. Last week the number of hospitalizations was four.

Health Officer, Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, said the danger is they only know where half of those people got it from.

“We used to be able to identify a source of infection for about 80-85% of our cases. Right now, we are around 50 percent,” he said.

The health department named several factors playing a role in this week’s high numbers.

“During the last few days we have been seeing cases from multiple businesses, nursing homes, restaurants, bars, dentist offices and other medical offices,” said Linda Ochs, Director of the Shawnee County Health Department.

She continued saying, “We’ve had people with positive cases attend graduation parties, camps and school functions. A lot of these people were symptomatic and they attended these events anyway. We even have people that are symptomatic, get tests and then keep going out until they get their results.”

Pezzino added, “Everywhere there is a gathering of people, there is a higher risk of transmission and that’s what we are seeing and when you have so much virus going around in the community it’s very difficult to keep the virus outside of certain settings where we don’t want it.”

He said school’s are a main focus right now.

“If you look at all the documents and standards regarding recommendations for school reopening, the first thing you see in those documents for a safe reopening of school’s is to have low community transmission,” Pezzino continued saying, “Right now our community transmission is way too high.”

To bring the number down, he issued a new order. Starting Monday at midnight, the indoor mass gathering limit will be reduced from 45 to 25.

Pezzino said, “There can be more than one group of 25 inside the building, if each group can stay 6 feet apart or more and the groups don’t mix with each other.”

Mass events are being dropped as well from 2,000 people to 500 or 50% of the venue’s capacity.

The health department also revealed a new scorecard system. Pezzino said it can help school’s make decisions.

He added, “In other words, everybody is home doing remote learning, everybody is in the school doing in-person learning or a hybrid model.”

Ochs reiterated now is not the time for the community to let their guard down.

“We’re all tired of COVID, but we need to get together and we need to stay the course so we can stop the spread of this virus,” she said.

Pezzino also recommends anyone who is high risk to stay home, that’s people 65 and older or with underlying health conditions.

Watch the news conference below:

Shawnee Co. Health Department COVID-19 News Conference

LIVE: Shawnee Co. Health officials, Topeka city leaders to address the new Shawnee County Community Transmission Scorecard, Rising Covid-19 Cases and Mass gatherings and public events.

Posted by WIBW on Friday, August 21, 2020

We’ll update this story with more information.

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