Riley County is faring better than expected in COVID-19 pandemic, local health officer says

(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

On Wednesday, Riley County reported three new cases of COVID-19, taking the total number of cases to 34.

All of the new positives are presenting in male residents of the county. Local health officer Julie Gibbs said they are likely sourced from community spread.

Gibbs said although community spread is evident, the county is doing well at combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The local social distancing grade on the index fluctuates between an ‘A’ and ‘B’ grade, meaning residents have reduced movement by 30 to 40 percent.

Right now, there are fewer documented cases of COVID-19 than expected in Riley County, Gibbs said. Additionally, the severity of cases has been lower than anticipated. Only one county resident is currently hospitalized.

“We’ve had relatively mild symptoms with most of the individuals that we’ve had,” Gibbs said. “I think we’ve done a good job with our social distancing — we need to keep it up though.”

Despite the success, it’s not time to open yet, assistant director of the Riley County Health Department Kurt Moldrup said.

“Continue to stay the course at the social distancing concept even if the process starts to open up,” Moldrup said. “What we don’t want is a free-for-all as we lighten things … we could see a spike.”

Moldrup drew a comparison to the tortoise and the hare fable.

“We’ll get there faster if we continue to move at a measured pace,” he said.

Andrew Adams, emergency preparedness coordinator, said there is certainly a relationship between the success the county is having in flattening the curve of case numbers and widespread social distancing.

Riley County and the rest of the state are still subject to Gov. Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home order and any possible extensions to that order.

When the time comes, the Unified Command — a collective authority made up of local officials, healthcare professionals and other leaders — will advise the phased reopening of the county. Gibbs said the existence of virus clusters, case numbers, healthcare capacity and other local and regional data will need to be considered.

“It’s all about timing,” Gibbs said.

Under the revised criteria for testing in Kansas, Gibbs said the county has the capacity for expanded testing. This could open doors to testing for individuals who might have less severe cases or minor symptoms.

“Hopefully, it’ll mean that we can test more. We know that we’ve been testing at a pretty low rate right now,” Gibbs said. “More information will be further coming with that.”

Recommendation for testing from a primary care provider is still required, but testing through the health department is free.

Individuals with symptoms are encouraged to call the screening line at 785-323-6400. People with non-emergent questions about COVID-19 in Riley County should send an email to

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.