Shawnee County health officer reduces mass gathering limit


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Shawnee County Health Department held a news conference Thursday after it reported a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases across the county.

Shawnee County Health Officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino said the number of cases they see every week is skyrocketing.

The health department released its weekly community scorecard Thursday, saying Shawnee County is in an uncontrolled level.

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Photo from the Shawnee County Health Department

Because of this, he issued a public health emergency order reducing the mass gathering limit to 10 people, large event (includes private events, weddings, etc.) to 100 people and restaurant capacity to 50% if total capacity is greater than 100.

This new health order goes into effect 12:01 a.m. Friday and lasts until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 14 unless renewed, rescinded or superseded by a subsequent order.

Dr. Pezzino said the main risk factor is social gatherings and the reduction of community transmission is necessary to protect businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and high-risk individuals. He recommends to follow isolation and quarantine requirements and stay away from gatherings.

Health department director Linda Ochs said they have maxed out capacity when it comes to testing. She said last week, they saw 627 positive cases and this week saw 609 positive cases and the week isn’t over yet. Ochs said they can no longer contact everyone who’s received a positive test.

She said if you do get a positive test, you need to stay home for 10 days and isolate from family if possible.

Stormont Vail Health Robert Kenagy said the hospital has 73 patients that have tested positive for the coronavirus, which he said is another all-time high.

On Wednesday, KSNT learned Stormont Vail is making changes within the next week because of the rising number of cases including canceling some elective surgeries and moving some employees to work in areas outside of their normal role.

“This virus is spreading uncontrolled in our communities,” Kenagy said during the news conference.

He also said they’ve been approved for a new antibody drug that can be delivered to those who potentially have the virus and most likely would require hospitalization. Details on that will be released later.

Steve Anderson, University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus CEO, said they’ve been able to bring in 12 additional nurses from out of the area to help at the hospital during this time.

Anderson said St. Francis has 19 coronavirus positive patients at the hospital which he said is far higher than they’ve been averaging. The good news, he said, is the hospital is well-stocked on personal protective equipment (PPE).

You can watch the full news conference below.

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