COVID-19 remains prevalent in Nemaha, Brown counties

Despite everyone’s hopes that COVID-19 would be a thing of the past, the novel coronavirus is still very prevalent across the nation, as well as right here in northeastern Kansas. The delta variant has been a variant of concern, but more recently, the omicron variant is beginning to take over the nation. However, it is unclear if there are any omicron variants in Nemaha and Brown counties.

“The state lab [Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE)] is not running sequencing labs right now, due to the increase in positive cases,” said Heaven Schuette, Nemaha County Health Officer. “We are assuming we have cases of omicron right now, but are not completely sure.”

As for local positive cases, Schuette said that while it seems like the Nemaha County numbers are increasing rapidly, they are really “holding steady.”

“It seems like the positive cases are increasing, but now our active cases are being kept for only five days, versus the 10 days it was previously,” Schuette said. “For the most part, we’re holding steady.”

The number of active cases are based on KDHE’s quarantine guidelines, which changed at the beginning of the year.

See updated case numbers on Page 5 of this week’s Herald.

School, Sports

While the amount of active cases continues to hold steady, multiple school events were canceled last week due to sickness.

The Sabetha High School wrestling dual against Falls City, Neb., and Maryville, Mo., was canceled for Thursday, Jan. 13. Then, Bluejay Buddies on Friday, Jan. 14, was canceled.

On Thursday, Jan. 13, Prairie Hills USD No. 113 sent out a press release to Sabetha families, regarding positive COVID-19 cases. The letter – from Superintendent Todd Evans – read as follows:

“I wanted to share with you that Sabetha school personnel have been informed of eight positive cases of Covid-19 that have been identified this past week from individuals at Sabetha High School. An additional five cases have been identified from individuals at Sabetha Middle School. One case has been verified from an individual at Sabetha Elementary School.

It is very important that parents not send their children to school if they are not well. We continue to ask that parents closely monitor children for symptoms such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Parents of students exhibiting symptoms are encouraged to keep them home and are asked to contact the school nurse, local health authorities or the County Health Department.

We are in contact with the Department of Health and will take the steps necessary to protect the health of our students and staff.

We are closely monitoring this situation and will provide you with updates if there is more information we are able to share. If you have questions, please contact me.”

KDHE Quarantine Guidelines

KDHE released updated COVID-19 quarantine guidelines on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Below are the updated guidelines.

If you test positive for COVID-19:

• Stay home for at least five days.

• Remain at home for as long as you have symptoms.

• Stay home until you are fever free for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever reducing medications.

• If you have no symptoms or your symptoms resolve, you can leave your house after a minimum of five days of isolation.

• Highly recommended wearing a mask around others for five additional days after you leave isolation.

If you have been exposed to COVID:

Vaccinated

If you have been boosted; or completed the primary series or Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last six months; or completed the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last two months; or have had a positive COVID-19 test within the last 90 days; you should:

• If you develop symptoms at any time, get tested and stay home.

• Test on day five, if possible. Monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

• Highly recommended to wear a mask around others for 10 days.

Not Fully Vaccinated

If you have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago and are not boosted; or completed the primary series of Johnson & Johnson more than two months ago and are not boosted; or are unvaccinated; you should:

• Stay home for five days if you can quarantine away from the positive case. If not, stay home an additional five days after the positive case symptoms resolve.

• If you develop symptoms at any time, get tested and stay home.

• Test on day five, if possible.

• Highly recommended to wear a mask around others for 10 days.

Contact Tracing

KDHE announced on Tuesday, Jan. 18, that the COVID-19 contact outreach and monitoring – otherwise known as contact tracing operations – will be discontinued as of Tuesday, Feb. 1. KDHE contact tracing staff will be reassigned to contact investigations.

According to a press release issued by KDHE, county local health departments have already begun to wind down contact tracing and K-12 schools – who were participating in contact tracing as part of the Test to Stay program – may temporarily suspend contact tracing as well.

Contact tracing is when Public Health notifies close contacts to let them know that they were exposed to an infectious disease and tells them about the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Participation with contact tracing has always been voluntary. The decision to end contact outreach and monitoring was made due to the surge in amount of positive COVID-19 cases and the public’s willingness to participate has diminished since the beginning of the pandemic.

“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, public health has to begin to adjust the level of response to help alleviate the strain on the Public Health system,” said Janet Stanek, Acting Secretary. “The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a move toward managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility of protecting yourself and others belongs to all of us.”

Individuals who are positive for COVID-19 will now be responsible for letting their close contacts know about their potential exposure. Additionally, if the individual with COVID-19 exposed others at high-risk settings such as schools, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, daycares and churches, KDHE or the local health department will notify the setting. The setting will be responsible for identifying close contacts and notifying them about the potential exposure.

KDHE urges Kansans to use the following tools to protect against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant: get vaccinated and boosted; wear a mask; get tested; stay home if exposed; stay home if sick; social distance; and practice good hand hygiene.

 

Heather Stewart208 Posts

Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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