Johnson County COVID-19 numbers rise over weekend; schools review data

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 18:33:01-05

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — The COVID-19 positivity rate in Johnson County now sits at 9.9%, which is the highest it's been since April 13.

The incidence rate on Monday was 356 new cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks, up from 307 on Friday.

"The higher the level of community spread, the higher the risk of introducing this virus into schools, the higher the risk of introducing it into senior nursing homes and long-term care facilities," said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

A county health department spokesperson said the transmission of the virus points to people ages 20-60 who are going to social events.

Still, the health department currently recommends that schools stay in the orange zone. The Shawnee Mission, Olathe and Gardner Edgerton school districts follow the county's gating criteria, so nothing changes for now.

"How long before what's happening out in the community makes it into the classroom? And I think it's just a matter of time," said Heather Simons, a parent in the Shawnee Mission School District.

Simons also is worried about indoor winter sports, which the district decided to move forward with last week.

"We're falling short as a community and there are no good answers," Simons said. "We can't pretend like everything is normal and we can go about life as normal."

According to the Shawnee Mission School District's data, 232 of its students are in active isolation, meaning they're positive, presumed positive or symptomatic. That number is up from 109 at the end of October.

The district has 219 students in active quarantine, meaning they've been exposed, which is up from 133 at the end of October.

Students in pre-K through sixth grade are getting the virus more than older students. However, the data shows the rate of contracting it outside school is much higher than in school.

Out of the SMSD students in active isolation, fewer than six cases originated in school and fewer than six cases originated in extracurricular activities, but 21 cases originated out in the community and the origin of 209 cases are unknown.

Out of the students in active quarantine, 15 cases originated in school and 54 cases originated in extracurricular activities, but 144 cases originated out in the community and the origin of six cases are unknown.

"I think the numbers we have are very concerning," Areola said. "So we're looking at that."

Health department officials say they're regularly in touch with school superintendents to go over this data. Many schools will review their learning modes in the coming week.

A spokesperson for the Gardner Edgerton School District did not comment Monday other than to say, "We still need to discuss this with JCDHE ourselves. If something about these data affects our plans, I'll be in touch."

A Shawnee Mission School District spokesperson said, "We continue to work together with JCDHE and to solicit their guidance. At this point, that guidance has not changed."

And the Olathe School District said, "The district continues to watch data closely and will make a decision on Nov. 9 about the next month’s learning model and communication will be sent to families."

Johnson County, KS
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