COVID rates are getting worse in Kansas ahead of Thanksgiving. These counties have the worst numbers.
Indicators show the coronavirus pandemic is starting to worsen again in Kansas as families gather over the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.
"The status of COVID in Kansas, you have no doubt heard, you see that the cases are ticking up," said Marci Nielsen, a state public health official. "We are now surpassing 1,000 per day in Kansas. That causes a little bit of concern."
She placed the blame on less mask use and more indoor gatherings.
Nielsen told the governor's Safer Classrooms Workgroup on Tuesday that the state's vaccination rate for youth ages 12-17 has consistently been about seven percentage points below the national rate.
"We haven't made progress, in terms of the national vaccination rate," Nielsen said. "Don't know what to say about that. I guess good news that we're not falling behind, not ideal that we aren't catching up with national averages."
About 54% of the 12-17 age group in Kansas has gotten at least one dose, according to federal data released Tuesday. The statistics also showed the first glimpse at early numbers on the 5-11 age group, which became eligible for vaccination earlier this month.
More than 28,000 children aged 5-11 have gotten a first shot in Kansas, or just over 10% of the age group's population. The mark is slightly below the national average.
Additionally, only 54% of all Kansans are fully vaccinated, which ranks in the bottom half of all states and territories.
"The three preventive measures to keep schools safely open continue to be vaccination, testing and masking," Nielsen said. "We know as we speak, the Legislature is talking about these important topics, and it makes it all the more important that health professionals and education specialists like yourself are talking about the data, talking about peer-reviewed data."
Nielsen said the state's data clearly shows that "when we require masks, we see far fewer outbreaks." The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's statistics show that of recent outbreaks at schools, 74% were in districts that didn't require masks. Those outbreaks also infected nearly 12 times as many students per capita than clusters at schools where masks are required.
State Education Commissioner Randy Watson said some schools experiencing outbreaks took the full Thanksgiving week off because they thought it might help "lessen the outbreak." He said it is unclear how the holiday break will affect the pandemic.
"Families getting together may cause spread, not being in school may lessen spread," Watson said.
KDHE county rankings
The KDHE issues rankings of all 105 counties in Kansas based on COVID-19 vaccination rates, case rates and testing rates. Below is a searchable database of the rankings with data as of Nov. 19. The higher the ranking, the greater the public health risk in the community.
County cases, test positivity, vaccination rates
Federal public health officials issue various COVID-19 data. Below is a searchable database of COVID-19 case rates, positivity rates and vaccination rates for Kansas counties with data as of Nov. 22.
KDHE school district rates
The KDHE reports presumed student case and vaccination rates by public school district boundaries. Below is a searchable database of Kansas schools with data for the period ending Nov. 14.
Jason Tidd is a statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Tidd.