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Over 160 new COVID-19 cases reported as RCHD loses contact tracing staff

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Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 4:02 PM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - As the Riley County Health Department loses contact tracing staff due to reduced funding from the KDHE, over 160 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the county.

The Riley County Health Department says it has a total of 161 new positive COVID-19 cases and 176 recoveries since its last report on Wednesday, Dec. 29. Currently, there are 206 active cases in the county and the percent positive test results rose to 14.59% for the week of Dec. 26.

Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan said it has 23 COVID-positive patients at this time, which is the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 16 are on the medical floor and 7 are in the ICU on ventilators. It also said 17 of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, 6 of them are in the ICU and 11 are on the medical floor.

RCHD said it will continue to test symptomatic individuals Monday through Friday, however, appointments are filling up quickly. Those who cannot get scheduled for a test at RCHD can also contact their medical provider or visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment drive-through testing site in the north parking lot of Manhattan Town Center to get tested.

“First and most importantly, anyone who has any symptoms of COVID should stay home and isolate,” said Local Health Officer Julie Gibbs. “Even if you are fortunate enough to have mild symptoms, you could be spreading the virus to someone who ends up in the hospital. Please talk to a medical professional if you have questions.”

Due to increased case volume and reduced staff, RCHD said some residents who test positive may be contacted by the KDHE instead of RCHD for contact tracing.

KDHE previously provided funding to county health departments, which RCHD said it used to support contact tracing staff positions. The KDHE has now encouraged counties to refer all or part of their contact tracing needs to the state. The reduced funding resulted in the loss of 8.5 positions or 340 hours of staff time per week at RCHD and the gap will be filled by KDHE contact tracing staff.

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