Delta variant quadruples COVID cases in Shawnee County; will mandates return?

Local News

TOPEKA (KSNT) – COVID cases have quadrupled in Shawnee County over the last month.

There were 178 new reported COVID cases in Shawnee County last week alone, that’s higher than all of the covid cases in June.

“Very soon, we won’t be able to again be able to contact or do a case investigation on all the cases,” Shawnee County Health Department’s Division Manager Craig Barnes said.

Local and U.S. health officials say it’s because of the Delta variant.

The variant is 60 percent more contagious than the original strain and that’s one reason why communities across the U.S. are seeing a spike in cases.

“CDC Director Dr. Walensky said just the other day it’s at about 83 percent of our new cases,” Dr. Cameron Webb with the White House Coronavirus Task Force said.

Both experts say the delta variant is spreading faster among those who have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Webb says getting the shot is safe, effective, and the key to lowering numbers.

“At this point, we’ve got over 160 million Americans who’ve been vaccinated, we’ve got a tremendous number of folks who are seeing that they’ve been able to be safely vaccinated that’s protected them from the need for hospitalization, protected them from death,” Webb said.

In Shawnee County, more than 77,000 people have gotten the vaccine; that’s 44 percent of the total population.

And compared to the 43 percent for the whole state of Kansas.

Barnes says they can’t make people get the vaccine, but warn mandates may return if cases get out of control.

“To prevent future mitigation measures like mandates and social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings, you know vaccination is the key,” Barnes said.

Next week the health department is meeting with all of the local school districts to talk about recommendations for the coming school year.

Leaders at the health department also say they have identified 15 outbreaks in congregate settings since June.

In a majority of those instances – the initial source of the outbreak was from an unvaccinated person.

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