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No new orders but Shawnee Co. Board of Health urges COVID precautions

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:58 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee Co. Commissioners met as the Board of health Monday in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers in the area.

County Health Officer, Dr. Erin Locke, told commissioners Omicron is now the dominant variant in the region.

Locke believed the county will see record-setting numbers of COVID-19 cases over the next three weeks.

She anticipates hospitalizations and deaths will peak in February.

Locke said COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher than the peak of the Delta variant surge.

“Last year we had a lot more staffing and so the difference in staffing is really making the difference in the peak,” she said.

The Chief Medical Officers (CMO) at Topeka’s hospitals attested to the strain.

“We know that across the country 20% of our medical staff has left the practice of medicine,” Stormont Vail Health’s CMO Dr. Kevin Dishman said. “That’s what we’re feeling in Shawnee Co. as well as across the entire nation.”

“Anything that happens in the community affects us at the hospital,” the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus CMO Dr. Jackie Hyland said. “We have an amazing staff who wants to provide medical care to anyone who walks through our doors.”

They asked the community to take preventative measures to avoid crowding at the facilities.

“We ask at this point for leadership to find a way to help us help you,” Dishman said.

“What healthcare needs from the community are when cases are up, just like when you have a cough, put your mask on,” Hyland added. “Get vaccinated, there are side effects but nothing like what you’ll have if you get COVID.”

Dr. Erin Locke released recommendations to the community.

She asked for the general public to stay home when they feel sick, test frequently, wear a mask, and if possible, upgrade to a KN95.

She also recommended rescheduling any gatherings with other households.

For businesses, she recommends strengthening infection control policies and allowing employees to work remotely when possible.

Commissioners stopped short of approving her request to issue a month-long county mask mandate.

Board Chair, Aaron Mays, cited, in part, complications of Senate Bill 40.

“The fact that anyone can sue us for any health order we implement right now for basically any amount they want certainly makes a challenge,” he said.

He instead delivered a different message.

“Don’t get COVID, do what you can to stay out of the hospital whether that’s COVID, or getting injured or anything else,” he said. “Do what you can to stay out of the hospital because they are full and don’t have the resources to adequately take care of you, so please be careful.″

Commissioners also adopted the county’s COVID-19 administrative leave policy. It gives full-time employees 10 days of paid leave that does not affect their sick or vacation time.

According to the county’s Human Resources department, 18 employees requested leave so far in the past week.

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