India Yarborough @iayarbor
May 8, 2020 at 5:51 PM
Because of the number of new COVID-19 cases in Shawnee County, local officials can’t guarantee the county will move to phase two of its reopening plan on May 18.
That is the date presented in Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide reopening plan, which was adopted by the county — with a few caveats — on May 1. In phase two, businesses such as casinos, theaters, museums, fitness centers, nail and hair salons, and bars and nightclubs would be allowed to reopen.
But that may not happen as early as expected.
According to Shawnee County health officer Gianfranco Pezzino, there was a “sharp increase” in new cases reported last week — double the number of new cases reported the week before, he said.
“We are likely to end the week just about at the same level as where we were last week,” Pezzino said. “It was pretty bad last week, and it’s still pretty bad now.”
The Shawnee County Health Department reported 10 new cases Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 149. The single-day high for new confirmed cases in the county is 12, recorded on April 10.
Of those 149 cases, 44 are active, 100 people have recovered from the virus and five people have died. An additional 38 people are awaiting test results, and 128 people are being monitored for symptoms of COVID-19. A total of 3,713 people have been tested locally.
“We are just identifying the tip of the iceberg,” Pezzino said. “Make no mistake — the number of people we’re identifying through our testing is still just a fraction of those who are infected out there.”
Pezzino said the county has seen at least three coronavirus-related hospitalizations this week. He said county officials will continue to monitor the rising case count and will make a final decision by May 15 on whether to leap to phase two of its reopening plan.
“The numbers in Shawnee County are not improving, and this is before we can measure any impact that may have resulted from lifting the safer-at-home order this week,” Pezzino said. “The number of new cases you see today is a reflection of what happened 10 or 15 days ago, not what happened this week.”
Pezzino doesn’t plan to implement additional restrictions yet but said that isn’t off the table if cases spike. He is asking county residents to “please slow down” and continue to heed social distancing guidelines and protective measures.
“If you are a business owner, if you’re making plans, if you’re ready to reopen the week after next, please be flexible,” Pezzino said.
Mayor Michelle De La Isla asked that Topeka residents continue to do personal risk assessments when going out in public — and “make sure that you are using your mask,” she said.
Pezzino said he isn’t judging people for wanting to get outside and reopen businesses, but, he added, it isn’t the time to take the virus lightly.
“It’s still not the time to relax our guard,” he said.