Health department announces decreased COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases

(Infographic by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

In the latest COVID-19 update released on March 23, the Riley County Health Department announced active cases dropped from 26 — as reported on March 16 — to six. New cases also decreased since the most recent report, going from 15 to three.

Along with a decrease in new and active cases, the two-week rolling positivity rate in Riley County dropped from 2.87 percent to 1.60 percent.

Additionally, Ascension Via Christi Hospital saw a drop in patient numbers, going from three, with one in ICU to only two patients. However, the report did not indicate whether either patient was in ICU.

Health Department Director Julie Gibbs said the low hospitalization rate is wonderful, and the county has fewer positive cases, with very few of those individuals experiencing severe symptoms. However, numbers could increase after spring break.

“If there are any increases in case numbers resulting from spring break travel, those will likely start to show up later this week or early next week,” Gibbs said in the report. “Overall, we’re in a much better situation than we were.”

On-campus for the week of March 14-18, the positivity rate was 0.00 percent. However, only 43 tests were administered compared to 161 during the week before spring break.

According to the report, COVID-19 testing for the county will change after April 1. However, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment testing site at 3019 Anderson Avenue in the Plaza West Shopping Center remains open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday for free COVID-19 PCR tests through April 1. In addition, the report did not indicate if KDHE will still distribute up to three free N95 masks to individuals requesting them.

Because the lease for the Anderson location lasts through the end of April, the grant-funded RADXup team currently operating in the health department will move to 3019 Anderson Ave. on April 4. They will offer free rapid and PCR tests from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with no appointment needed through April.

“The building at 3019 Anderson Avenue is leased through the end of April,” Gibbs said in the report. “It’s a larger space that has been dedicated to COVID-19 testing, so it makes sense to move our testing operations there while the building is available.”

Since testing demand and case numbers continue to decrease, health department staff assisting with testing will return to their regular duties. As a result, the health department will not offer COVID-19 tests at its primary location, 2030 Tecumseh Road. However, the health department will provide take-home COVID-19 tests.

The health department will continue providing COVID-19 vaccinations with or without an appointment. Walk-in vaccinations are available at 2030 Tecumseh Road from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday-Wednesday, noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday. Appointments can also be scheduled by calling (785) 565-6560.

The health department has resumed publishing weekly COVID-19 updates. According to the March 16 report, the change was implemented to be consistent with the CDC Community Level Tool.

“We are updating the format of our local reports to be more consistent with the types of data the CDC shares in the nationwide Community Levels tool,” Renee Lucas, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Riley County Health Department, said in the update. “We want to make it as easy as possible for people to understand the numbers and take appropriate precautions.”