JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Students are returning to the classroom after winter break as COVID-19 cases are increasing in Johnson County.
"We have seen a lot more kiddos with Covid in the past couple weeks than we've seen at any other time during this pandemic," Dr. Amy Voelker, a pediatrician in Olathe, said. "The last time we sent tests out was Thursday and we had over 30% positive of the tests we sent, so the numbers have definitely gone up. I don't think we've had more than two or three positives in a day and we had eight on Thursday."
That's why Voelker and more than 200 other doctors are urging Johnson County to keep the current school mask mandate and reinstate the mandate for high school students until the community gets over the current COVID-19 surge.
"It's also about protecting our community as a whole because we are at a point where we don't have extra people to fill jobs," Voelker said. "We don't have extra teachers, we don't have extra subs, we don't have extra health care providers or frontline workers."
On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the Johnson County commissioners will decide whether to get rid of the mask requirement altogether.
Right now, the county order requires kids up to sixth grade to wear masks inside.As of Monday afternoon,the county is now at a 21.5% positivity rate, up from 12.5% percent on Dec. 30.
New cases on Monday afternoon stood at 637 per 100,000 people. Both stats are record highs since the pandemic began.
"I know people right now who are currently impacted by that. People who are doing their best not to get it are still getting it," Sarah Hickey, an Olathe parent, said.
Hickey said she wants her first grade child and all children to be in school and also urged the county to keep masks in school.
"I have a special needs kid who is nonverbal, so if he gets sick he can't really tell us," Hickey said. "Usually things get really bad before we know something's going on with him. So, that's really important to me."
Right now, about 21.5% of kids age 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated in Johnson County.
"And if we take away masks in schools or we don't put them back for high school, we are sending thousands of kids into what could be the biggest super spreader event in Johnson county," Voelker said.
The Shawnee Mission school district met on Monday afternoon to discuss its mask mandate.