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Coronavirus update

COVID-19, Testing

Johnson County residents who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms can schedule a free COVID-19 test at the Department of Health and Environment's Olathe location. Residents should seek testing from their primary health care provider first before making an appointment. Supplies and appointment times are limited.

JCDHE staff will be responsible for collecting the specimen samples and information (name, DOB, address, gender, occupation, race/ethnicity, and information about symptoms) from the individuals being tested. Johnson County is entering into a contract(s) with laboratories to provide testing materials, receive samples, analyze specimens and report the results.

Cars will be instructed to keep windows rolled up until they pull up next to a testing station. A team member delivers prelabeled lab form, media and swab to the testing station. Drivers will be instructed to roll down their windows and keep their head inside the car. JCDHE staff will ensure that all infection prevention & control steps are followed including hand hygiene before and after the procedure and before and after the sample collection.

After the specimen is collected, laboratory forms specific to the individual tested will be placed in a plastic biohazard laboratory bag and the specimen will be placed on ice in a cooler. Labels on the specimen itself will be matched to the paperwork to ensure the sample is correctly identified.  Samples collected at the drive thru event will be tracked by JCDHE staff and sent via FedEx to the testing laboratory with a shipping manifest of all samples included in the shipment.

Personal Protective Equipment for droplet precautions will be used. For assisting team members: gloves, gown or disposable lab coat, mask with face-shield or eye protection. For testers: gloves, gown or disposable lab coat, mask with face-shield or eye protection.

Turnaround time for results is approximately 5 – 7 days.

If your test comes back positive, JCDHE will call you to begin an investigation, starting with doing contact tracing for those with whom you have come in close contact. If the test is negative, individuals will be mailed their results.

Johnson County Government is covering all costs for the test.  The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners authorized $400,000 for COVID-19 testing. This includes supplies such as swabs/tubes, courier pick-up, testing, and result reporting.

There is NO public health recommendation that employees must test negative for COVID-19 before returning to work. At this time, anyone who has been ill can return to work if they meet the following criteria: 10 days since onset of symptoms, 24 hours fever-free (without the use of medicine that reduces fever), and significant improvement in symptoms.

Antibody testing can play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 by helping healthcare professionals to identify individuals who have overcome an infection in the past and have developed an immune response. Antibody testing will definitely add to our knowledge of how much of our population, with few or no symptoms, has been exposed to COVID-19 when it becomes widely available. It will aid the surveillance efforts put in place after dealing with this initial outbreak.

  • In the future, this may potentially be used to help determine, together with other clinical data, that such individuals are no longer susceptible to infection and can return to work.
  • In addition, these test results can aid in determining who may donate a part of their blood called convalescent plasma, which may serve as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19. In prior viral outbreaks like measles, polio, mumps and influenza, the FDA approved convalescent plasma transfusion as a therapeutic treatment. Individuals with high levels of antibodies could donate plasma for transfusions to treat gravely ill patients.

They are not.

  • In the early days of an infection when the body’s immune response is still building, antibodies may not be detected, limiting the test’s effectiveness for diagnosing COVID-19.  There is also a risk of false positives with antibody testing.

COVID-19, School Reopening Criteria

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) released public health recommendations for K-12 schools to help families and school districts make decisions about returning to school in the Fall. The recommendations are based on currently available information, data and science, as well as, expert analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Children’s Mercy Hospital.  JCDHE staff collaborated with school district personnel to develop the school gating criteria.  The process of implementing the criteria will require ongoing collaboration as we move forward.  

Our primary consideration is to ensure the health of our residents, including school-aged children. These priorities have to be balanced with the need for public education and necessary social interactions for our younger residents.

“In person” DOES NOT MEAN “business as usual.” Every district has communicated lengthy, detailed plans with families about changes to the school day. Every effort is being made to limit exposure in schools.

However, there will absolutely be exposure and cases of COVID-19 in schools. If your child or your household members have significant underlying health conditions, you should think carefully about ANY in-person gathering, including school.

Parents can help kids get used to the changes they will see at school by encouraging mask use now, making sure it fits comfortably, teaching them when and how to wear it, and modeling this behavior. If you think your child cannot wear a mask most of the school day, they may not be a good candidate for an in-person environment this Fall.

County and district leaders will meet again the week of August 17th to review the data and the gating criteria, specifically looking at how case counts have trended at the beginning of August. At this time, final recommendations about the safest learning mode for schools to start the year will be made. 

A critical determinant about the safest learning mode will be the level of community transmission of COVID-19. Right now, community transmission is too high. Evidence shows that reopening schools is safe when community transmission is low. If we don’t have control over community transmission, opening schools may, in fact, contribute to increased transmission. 

If we want schools open in the least restrictive way possible, the time to act is now. We need to work collectively to lower the level of transmission in the community. It is very important for parents to keep this in mind. It is not a time to host house parties or allow your children to attend one. Everyone needs to wear masks, practice physical distancing, stay home when ill and wash hands frequently to break the cycle of transmission in Johnson County.

More changes! COVID-19 is a new virus and evidence continues to become available.  JCDHE will modify and update these recommendations as appropriate, in partnership with our school districts. 

This is an opportunity for the community to come together, practice masking and social distancing, stop hosting and attending large gatherings and collectively sacrifice to bring our case counts down so that children can start school in the least restrictive mode possible. 

If we want our schools to open (and remain open) we all have to work together to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be excluded until three criteria are met: 

  1. 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms OR 10 have passed since the test date, if person is asymptomatic;
  2. Be fever-free without the use of medication for 24 hours AND
  3. Have significant improvement in symptoms.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) will not announce the name of schools or childcare facilities where cases of COVID-19 occur unless there is a public health threat. JCDHE and the school will partner on a case investigation. Schools will identify close contacts internally, and JCDHE will follow up with families about external contacts. Individuals that have been exposed will be notified that they will need to quarantine for 14 days.

Mask wearing has been shown to be an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. JCDHE does not recommend excluding students and/or staff who are close contacts of an COVID-19 positive individual as long as masks were being properly worn, even if there has been close contact. However, individuals who were unmasked within 6 feet for 10 minutes of the positive case OR participated in a high-risk activity with the positive case during their infectious period may be excluded for 14 days from their last interaction with the individual. This determination will be made by the schools in consultation with JCDHE.

Quarantine means staying at home and not going out. A mask is required in public per Governor Kelly’s executive order.

These contacts do not need to be tested for COVID-19 unless their health care provider advises them to do so. If the close contact is tested during their 14-day quarantine and is negative for COVID-19, they must still complete the 14-day quarantine before returning to school or work, as symptoms can take up to 14 days to develop.

Those who had limited contact (less than 10 minutes) with the positive case, and who maintained a distance of more than 6 feet and always wore a mask, are considered a low risk exposure and do not need to be excluded from school or work. These individuals should monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, wear a mask when in public, maintain physical distance of 6 feet or more from other individuals and wash hands frequently with soap and water.

These contacts do not need to be tested for COVID-19 unless their health care provider advises them to do so.

The differences in learning modes for elementary and middle/high school students in the Safe School Reopening Recommendations are based on existing evidence showing that older students transmit COVID-19 like adults. Young children do not appear to  be major drivers of COVID-19 transmission and may be at a lower risk of developing serious illness. In fact, Johnson County has no evidence of child-to-child transmission in Johnson County childcare programs that have been open through the spring and summer. Finally, elementary programs have successfully opened in other countries that put precautions like masking and distancing in place.

The elementary school environment also supports safer in-person instruction because groups are easier to cohort. Middle and high schoolers change classes frequently, which multiplies opportunities for exposures throughout the day.

Younger children need more in person interaction to learn than older students. 

JCDHE urges caution for families enrolled in elementary hybrid models. The purpose of this learning mode is to limit the number of people children have contact with during the day, in order to minimize exposures. Consider this alongside childcare or other group arrangements on out-of-school days. School districts may opt to provide hybrid options for elementary students. Contact your school district regarding the options they provide.

Probably. Although only a few, but there are exceptions to the mask mandate. Consult with your local school district for this information. The Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (KAAP) states that “masks are considered safe for most children and youth over the age of two years. There are very few exceptions for wearing masks.” KAAP suggests that children who cannot remove the masks on their own should not wear them and explore virtual learning opportunities instead.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association and your local school district will provide guidance on specific activities. JCDHE does not recommend high risk activities or group travel, or all-school activities in the Yellow, Red or Remote modes. If the activities must occur, spectator/audience groups should be distanced by household groups, facilities should cap attendance to allow for six feet between these groups, and masks should be worn.

JCDHE is not currently planning on conducting testing specific to school staff. JCDHE recommends that anyone with symptoms contact their health care provider first to determine if testing is necessary.

JCDHE offers appointment-based drive-up COVID-19 testing for anyone who lives or works in Johnson County, Kansas, with or without symptoms, who is not able to get tested by their health care provider. Testing is free and results take 5-7 business days. Schedule a test.

JCDHE has not suggested that children are not capable of infecting others. We have been clear that there will be transmission in schools. However, there are evidence that suggest milder symptoms in children and children younger than 10 transmit the virus less often to others :

Families will be given two to four weeks’ notice before learning modes change, barring an emergency situation that would require quicker action. Consult with your local school district for specific information.

We do take the level of transmission in surrounding counties into consideration as we make decisions because we know those impact us as well. However, we will only look at Johnson County, KS data to determine the gating criteria. Several local issues are important in making these recommendations, including health department and school district capacity for case investigation and contact tracing and hospital capacity. JCDHE is working with other metro area jurisdictions on some coordinated response efforts and keeps a close eye on what case counts look like in these jurisdictions, in case coordinated action is needed.

The usual response to any kind of outbreak is to identify who is infected, remove them from contact with others, notify close contacts of the positive case for them to quarantine them to see if symptoms occur. It is our hope that families and staff cooperate with these recommendations in order to avoid large outbreak clusters. JCDHE staff and building designees are monitoring COVID-19 activity very closely and will intervene as quickly as possible when necessary.

JCDHE considers a positive case infectious 72 hours BEFORE the onset of symptoms (or 72 hours before a positive test result if the person is asymptomatic).

Consult with your local school district for this information.

Consult with your local school district for this information. The combination of wearing masks, social distancing, good hygiene practices, cohorting in the elementary school and spending more time outdoors should help reduce the risk of exposure.

Consult with your local school district for this information. The combination of wearing masks, social distancing, good hygiene practices, cohorting in the elementary school and spending more time outdoors should help reduce the risk of exposure.

The gating criteria only recommend a safe learning mode for academic instruction and school-related activities. How districts apply them to student and staff requirements for attendance or work is a district-level decision.

Per Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order No. 20-52, a mask or face covering means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is simply wrapped around the face. Ideally, a mask or other face covering has two or more layers. A mask or face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand. 

The Executive Order does not address masks with valves, however, Children’s Mercy Hospital guidance states, “masks with exhalation valves should not be worn as they can promote the spread of infection.” Face shields can be worn over a mask or face covering but should not be substituted for a mask.

Consult with your local school district for this information.

The gating criteria include two specific data points, the percent of positive tests and the trend in the number of new cases (steady, increasing or decreasing). Health department and district leaders meet frequently and will also consider other factors, such as agency capacity for case investigation and contact tracing, effectiveness of mitigation techniques, hospital capacity, and staffing considerations. Districts will communicate changes in learning modes to families with  two to four weeks’ notice, barring an emergency change.

There is no scientific evidence that shows that backpacks or school supplies carry a risk of spreading COVID-19. It is always good practice to not share school supplies to limit the risk of spreading any kind of communicable disease, including colds and flu, and to wash hands frequently.

JCDHE and school leaders will work together to conduct case investigations, understand the risk of transmission within the group, and what prevention measures were undertaken. This guidance will come from JCDHE and may be implemented by the school districts.

Yes, these were taken into consideration. The design of elementary school makes it easier to cohort (or group) students together with the same people every day, limiting exposures. Middle and high schoolers switch groups frequently, making cohorting difficult. 

The oldest elementary students have an advantage in that they can faithfully mask/distance and understand why these behaviors are important. These techniques are effective among adults and there is little reason to think they will not be among 5th and 6th graders. We expect they will be a good example for the younger children.

COVID-19, Enforcement

If you are seeking enforcement of the Governor’s Mask Order, please contact the consumer fraud hotline at the District Attorney’s Office: 913-715-3003. DO NOT CALL 911.

AG Derek Schmidt provides updated guidance to law enforcement and prosecutors on enforcement of emergency orders

Per Kansas Disease Regulations, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment can only investigate cases that can be substantiated by lab results or a provider diagnosis. If you have concerns with a company, we advise you to report that concern to the company’s owner or Human Resources department as opposed to JCDHE.

COVID-19, General

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates it is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus first identified in 2019. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness like the common cold.

Yes, there is community spread in Kansas. Similar to how the flu and/or the common cold is spread, this means that it is spread from person to person through coughs or sneezes or by touching contaminated surfaces.

A MILD case of COVID-19 causes mild fever, headache, body aches and cough. A SEVERE case of COVID-19 causes fever, cough and shortness of breath (i.e., difficulty breathing while doing daily activities, going up stairs, walking, eating, bathing, sleeping, talking, etc. and is NOT related to a previous health condition). Some patients may develop pneumonia. Symptoms appear two-14 days after exposure.

COVID-19 is spread when healthy people are exposed to droplets from a cough or a sneeze from an infected person. Chances of infection increase when a person is closer than about 6 feet for longer than 10 minutes. The virus can also live on surfaces and can be transmitted when people touch surfaces then touch their face or food.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use a tissue or a sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your face. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home if you are sick. Disinfect “high-touch” surfaces (i.e., tables, toilets, light switches, phones, doorknobs) every day with EPA approved disinfectant or diluted bleach (1/3 cup bleach:1 gallon water) or 60% alcohol-based solution. Avoid crowds and groups greater than 10 persons.

In general, symptoms usually appear 2–14 days after exposure. CDC is gathering information on whether this novel coronavirus can be spread by people before they show symptoms. At this time, CDC’s guidance is based on the available science, which suggests that the incubation period ranges from 2 to 14 days and that patients are most contagious when they have a fever/symptoms.

 

Anyone who is exposed COVID-19 may become infected. Traveling to an area with widespread transmission of COVID-19 increases your risk.

High-risk persons include older adults and people who are immunocompromised and/or have severe chronic medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, lung disease).

In severe cases, infection can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. From what we know so far, illness seems to be more severe in older individuals and in people with other health conditions.

If you get sick, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment recommends you isolate at home for 10 days after the onset of symptoms, until you are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, and until you have a significant improvement in symptoms.

For detailed information about what to do if you're sick, including when to see a doctor and how to protect others from becoming sick, see this guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NO. Being exposed to COVID-19 is not an emergency. Call your healthcare provider to discuss your exposure and symptoms. Do NOT go to your healthcare provider office or clinic until after you have spoken with someone in the office or clinic. 

There is no vaccine for COVID-19. At this time, over-the-counter medications (e.g., acetaminophen and ibuprofen and cough and/or cold medicines) can be used to treat symptoms. It is also important to stay hydrated with water and limit caffeinated drinks. If you are unable to stay hydrated, become unable to care for yourself, or begin to have shortness of breath, then you should contact emergency services.

It is unknown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health agencies and scientists to learn more about COVID-19.

Visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Frequently Asked Questions about quaratines for the latest information.

You can access the number of cases by zip code on the county's dashboard.

The Community Blood Center is collecting convalescent plasma donations from those who have recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19). CBC will collect, process the plasma for infusion, and maintain a bank for hospitals to treat patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections. Learn more about COVID-19 plasma donations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, and Johnson County reports only confirmed cases.

If in your car alone or with other people with whom you live, you're not required to wear a mask. If you're in a vehicle with other people with whom you do not live, then you need to wear masks, unless you’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

While you are eating and drinking, you don't have to wear a mask. But you should sit at least six feet apart from anyone with whom you don't live.

You should arrive at a restaurant wearing your mask and keep wearing it while you're seated, unless you’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52. Keep your mask on until it's time for you to eating and drink. After you eat and drink, put your mask back on and continue to wear it while you exit the restaurant.

Employees, unless exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52, must wear masks in any public space inside a business, regardless of whether any members of the public are present.

A recommendation for prevention of the spread of the virus is, if the exempt person is in direct, close contact with the public or other staff, see if the person can be re-assigned to other duties that does not bring them in close contact with others.

If you're in a building in areas other people move through, such as hallways or stairways, you have to wear a mask while you're moving through those spaces.

If you're in a space where you're with other people and you cannot maintain six feet of distance, you need to wear a mask.

If you're in your private office alone, you don't have to wear a mask. If another person comes into your office, then you and the other person need to wear masks.

Masks are required at all times in businesses that package or prepare food for sale or distribution.

You don't have to wear a mask if you're exercising outdoors alone or only with people with whom you live. You don't have to wear a mask if you're exercising in a group and you stay six feet away from the other people with whom you're exercising.

If you're swimming alone in a pool or talking poolside only with people with whom you live, you don't have to wear a mask.

If you're swimming in a pool with other people with whom you don't live, you don't have to wear a mask.

If you're talking poolside with people with whom you don't live, then you need to stay at least six feet apart or wear masks, unless you’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster, Johnson County public health officer, recommends surgical masks or cloth face coverings made with two layers of fabric. 

Surgical masks are disposable masks that have multiple layers of protection. They're the type of masks worn by health care professionals in a clinical setting.

You should wash cloth masks after you wear them in hot water with detergent. Bleach is not necessary to kill the virus on cloth masks.

Surgical and cloth face masks are not tight enough around your face to protect you, but by wearing them, you protect others.

Make sure masks fit securely over your nose. These types of masks are not effective if you pull them down below your nose.

LeMaster does not recommend masks with valves in them, because the valves allow all of the mask wearer's exhalation to exit through the valve.

If you're working out individually inside a public space and you can't stay six feet away from others, then you should be wearing a mask, unless you’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

It depends on whether you're playing a sport indoors or outdoors. You don't have to wear a mask if:

If you're participating in an activity that requires people to be crowded together for longer periods of time, then you should wear a mask or not do the activity.

If you're playing a sport indoors where you're usually six feet apart and you come in close contact only momentarily, such as basketball, then the governor's order doesn't require you to wear a mask.

People sitting on the sidelines not participating in the sport at that time, or spectators in the area, should stay six feet away from other people or wear a mask, unless they’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

On July 2, the Board of County Commissioners voted to support Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s executive order requiring masks to be worn in public spaces. Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52 also requires masks outdoors when six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. There are a number of exemptions. Children 5 and younger will not be required to wear masks when the order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m., on Friday, July 3. Those with medical conditions that prevent mask use will also be allowed an exemption. Businesses open to the public are required to comply with the order.

Children can get COVID-19. Symptoms in children may be very mild, for example a runny nose, sneezing and/or a mild cough. Some children may exhibit no symptoms. Some children can develop severe complications and may require hospitalization.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment can test children ages 12 and older during testing clinics. Children ages 12-15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If your child is younger than 12, and you believe they need to be tested, contact your child's physician.

If you're sick, stay home.

If you attend a gathering, stay at least six feet away from other guests and preferably, wear a mask. If you can't stay six feet apart, always wear a mask, except when eating and drinking. If possible, hold the gathering outdoors.

Rather than serving food buffet style where guests use a single utensil to put food on their plates, have someone wear a mask, wash their hands thoroughly and serve the food to each person.

Wash your hands frequently. Use hand sanitizer frequently when soap and water aren't available.

If you're in an inside public space, you have to wear a mask, unless you’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

You don’t have to wear a mask outside if:

  • You’re alone.
  • If you’re only outside with people with whom you live.
  • If you can maintain at least six feet of space between you and other people with who you do not live.
  • You’re exempt under Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52.

You should be ready to put on a mask outside if you encounter a situation where you can't stay at least six feet away from other people with whom you do not live.

COVID-19, Business

This a respiratory virus. The way we contract COVID-19 is through breathing in viral particles. If the virus is on your food and you eat it, the food ends up in your stomach where there’s stomach acid. The stomach acid will kill the virus, and the virus won’t make it to your lungs, where the infection occurs.

The risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) from a drive-thru or from carryout is much less than if you were eating in a restaurant. COVID-19 is spread from one person to another through talking and respiratory droplets. The risk of catching COVID-19 from food containers like cardboard boxes and bags is exceptionally low.

If you are eating at a restaurant, try to eat outdoors where we know transmission of coronavirus is less likely. If you are eating inside a restaurant, make sure the restaurant staff and particularly the servers and people you interact with are wearing masks, because that will help protect you from contracting it if those individuals are spreading the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines steps you can take before and during a trip to a restaurant to help protect yourself from COVID-19.

COVID-19, Data

The school gating criteria is available here and is updated daily by 9 a.m. Click on the Gating Criteria tab in the top navigation bar.

The White House’s Coronavirus Task Force classifies counties with a diagnostic test percent positive rate over 10% in the “Red Zone.” Additional “Red Zone” criteria include over 100 newly reported COVID-19-positive individuals per 100,000 population. Based on both these criteria, Johnson County is in the White House’s “Red Zone.”

A diagnostic test percent positive rate, or positivity rate, is an internationally recognized and accepted way of understanding disease transmission, a standard set by World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other worldwide health organizations. It helps public health practitioners, decision-makers, and the public understand the current level of coronavirus transmission in their community. It also helps health leaders know if enough testing is available for the number of people with new infections. This calculation is a way to adjust for changes in testing capacity, especially as capacity increases over the course of the pandemic. For more information regarding percent positivity and why it is an important metric to assess the state of the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit: https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/covid-19-testing-understanding-the-percent-positive.html

Percent of positive tests is not the only metric JCDHE considers when analyzing the state of the pandemic in our county and is not the only factor influencing decision making; JCDHE also uses data metrics like rate per 100,000 total case counts, and demographic information about positive cases, such as age, race, ethnicity and zip code. The department also uses information from case investigations, such as where/from whom people may have become infected, the number of contact they may have passed the virus to, and the severity of illness.

The percent of all COVID-19 lab tests conducted for Johnson County residents that have a positive result.

When JCDHE downloads the new positive cases, analysts ensure that an individual’s results only appear in the cumulative counts once. It is important that local transmission rates are not artificially inflated by people who test positive weekly after an initial positive result (this is a common occurrence as the body sheds the virus, it does not mean that the individual is still contagious or a threat to public health).

Zero. National public health organizations do not include antibody tests in their definitions of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The case counts included on JCDHE’s dashboard are based on Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for coronavirus.

JCDHE receives COVID-19 lab results on residents who are tested for other reasons other than acute illness. Many results come back for people who are tested because they are undergoing medical procedures or athletes whose organizations require them to be tested regularly.

JCDHE offers free testing to individuals, regardless of the presence of symptoms, throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, JCDHE does not receive information from labs about the reason individuals are tested. This measurement is a widely accepted measurement often used to track infectious diseases; however, it is not the only metric JCDHE is using to monitor to COVID-19 in Johnson County.

JCDHE has been tracking the rate of infection per 100,000 in our population since the beginning of the pandemic. It has been used in JCDHE’s decision making and in resource management even though it has not been displayed on the dashboard. JCDHE will include this metric in our public communications moving forward. Please see below for further clarification of this metric.

JCDHE averaged 90 cases per day for the past two weeks. While that is a significant drop (23% lower) from a high of 116 cases per day a few weeks ago, it is still very high. 
Presented as basic counts each week, here are the number of new cases weekly in Johnson County since the end of June 2020:
 

Week

Total # of Cases*

June 28 – July 4

561

July 5 – July 11

746

July 12 – July 18

810

July 19 – July 25

720

July 26 – August 1

627

August 2 – August 8

629

August 9 – August 15

740

*These are weekly case counts for the dates indicated and do not reflect the moving weekly case rate per 100,000 population used on the dashboard and in the gating criteria.

Yes and no. JCDHE uses a 14-day average of the percent of positive tests, not a daily rate because there is a lot of variance in the number of lab tests JCDHE receive per day. Some days we receive many lab results all at once and other days the labs do not run as many samples. This variance causes the percent of positive tests to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. When this number is averages over 14 days, the trend smooths out (this phenomenon is called statistical noise; it is resolved by using rolling averages).

The 14-day average is also used to calculate the daily case count, for the same reason. The number of tests results JCDHE receives from area labs can vary widely from day to day. Averaging these numbers over a two week period smooths out very high and very low days, which could be the result of a host of factors, such as a smaller staff running labs on weekends, a backlog of results to report, delays in courier services, or even bad weather that cancelled or delayed drive-thru testing operations.

The number of cases per 100,000 population is calculated by aggregating the total number of cases over the previous week divided by the total population and standardizing this value to 100,000 people to make it comparable to other jurisdictions with different population sizes. JCDHE has opted to reflect this number over a seven-day period, rather than 14 days like many of our other measurements, to be consistent with the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force’s calculations.

Using 14 days to calculate the percent of positive tests allows JCDHE to have the most accurate picture of the percent of tests that are positive. Data that are used to calculate percent positive is dependent on reporting from lab results, and the data are updated on a continuous basis as new lab results are received. Due to human error and systemic delays in processing lab results and reporting results to JCDHE, a lag time of 7-10 days can mean that the percent positive tests fluctuate more than the “real numbers” of case counts. By using a 14-day moving average, JCDHE reduces the statistical noise inherent in this process and stabilizes the value to account for delayed reporting.

In several instances, the basic information the two organizations use to run their calculations are slightly different, leading to different final numbers. For example, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports new positive cases by the date the lab specimen is tested (or run), but JCDHE reports this data based on the date the specimen was collected. JCDHE does it this way to ensure that the lab result aligns as closely as possible with the onset date of illness. This nuance matters at the local level because JCDHE is conducting case investigations with the newly diagnosed people, but it can lead to differing data.

Ultimately, there are differences in the inputs state and local health departments factor into their data calculations. These departments perform different functions and have different questions they need the data to answer. An example of this is which cases KDHE and JCDHE count in their total case counts. KDHE includes a set of probable cases, which include those meeting clinical criteria AND epidemiological evidence, or cases that have presumptive lab evidence and EITHER clinical or epidemiological evidence. 

These cases include those identified by antigen tests, which are usually performed as a point of care test and are faster but not as sensitive to identifying the presence of the virus. KDHE also includes antibody tests (also called serology tests), which is a blood test conducted after a recovery from COVID-19 to identify antibodies to COVID-19. Finally, KDHE’s case counts include close contacts to a lab-confirmed positive case who become symptomatic within a 14-day exposure window, regardless of a positive lab result. Counting probable cases is a common practice among infectious disease experts, especially those looking at large populations. The state health department must understand what is going on with community transmission while also accounting for variances across geography, testing capabilities, health department investigative capacity, quick access to labs, and positive cases who deny testing. Counting probable cases makes some assumptions based on the preponderance of evidence. Probable cases are not counted as positive until they are lab-confirmed, which is why KDHE says their “case counts are preliminary and subject to verification.” 

JCDHE’s responsibility at a local level is different. Our data can be more exacting because we can hold steady certain realities about Johnson County, such as testing capacity, health department investigative ability, and lab access. Local health officers are empowered to issue public health orders, compelling residents to take specific actions such as staying home, closing businesses, etc. It is vital that officials have the most accurate case counts. Therefore, JCDHE’s final case counts only include PCR tests, which are more sensitive molecular tests.

Still, JCDHE understand that these discrepancies in data can be confusing to the public. KDHE and JCDHE are meeting in late August to explore ways to more closely align our metrics to ease public confusion.

Lab results are generally reported to KDHE electronically from laboratories, hospitals, clinics, etc. The results are entered into a database called EpiTrax that local health department and others can access. This is the mechanism with which new cases are identified and reported to both state and local health officials.

EpiTrax is a communicable disease surveillance and outbreak management application that allows multiple jurisdictions to identify, investigate, and mitigate communicable diseases, environmental hazards, and bioterrorism events.

It is worthwhile to address some misinformation about this concept circulating in the community. Local health department call positive cases and ask questions about where they have been and who they have been around during their infectious period. People identified in this process are called “close contacts” and are at high-risk for developing COVID-19 because of their exposure to a positive individual. These individuals are notified of their exposure and asked to quarantine for 14 days while watching for symptoms. These actions have the effect of building a “wall” around the infection and preventing the further spread.

The way health officials track this information is in EpiTrax. It is accurate to say that the contacts of positive cases are “epi-linked,” meaning they are connected to one another through some common source, such as a person or place. That way, if close contacts develop COVID-19, JCDHE knows the source of the infection and can use the information to deploy additional mitigation techniques. It is NOT accurate to say that “epi-linked” individuals are included in case counts. These are separate processes.

This scenario is an excellent example of why epi-linking cases is a crucial part of JCDHE’s work. If health officials know and can trace the source of an outbreak—for example, a workplace where masks and social distancing is not being done—JCDHE can act accordingly and direct resources or orders to containing a specific outbreak.

The challenge is, at this time, Johnson County has community spread of COVID-19, that is, the virus is too widespread to mitigate by tracking individual outbreaks or clusters of disease. The cases are all over the county and are not all necessarily attributable to just a few events or places. As new case counts decrease, it may again be possible to prevent the spread by only focusing on clusters and outbreak sites. Until then, it is incumbent on community members to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, stay home when ill and wash hands frequently.

Johnson County school districts and health officials collaborate frequently. Recommendations for universal school open/closing would not be made because of a single, identified outbreak. At this time, due to the community spread of COVID-19 in Johnson County, recommendations for schools are applicable to all districts.

The “Individuals Tested” represents the number of Johnson County residents who have had a COVID-19 test. Someone who has tested both positive and negative with have their results counted in both the “Positives” and “Negatives” but that person is only counted once in “Individuals Tested.” That’s why the “Positives” and “Negatives” do not add up to the “Individuals Tested.”

JCDHE only reports positive laboratory confirmed Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for COVID-19 on the dashboard.

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Hotlines

If you have virus-related questions, call the Johnson County Community COVID-19 Hotline.

Staffed by school nurses from across Johnson County.
913-715-CV19 (2819)
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

State Reopening Kansas plan

Child care licensing COVID-19 hotline

913-477-8361
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF)
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sunday, 1 - 5 p.m.

Email KDHE or visit coronavirus.kdheks.gov.