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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.

Test results are available within 3 to 4 business days. Test results will be sent via email if you provide verbal consent. Check your email account’s spam/junk folder if you have not received your results within 4 business days. Do not call our office for test results as this delays the process. If your test is POSITIVE and you choose not to receive your results via email, you will receive a phone call at the number you provided when you scheduled your appointment. If your test is NEGATIVE and you choose not to receive results via email, you will receive a letter in the mail at the address you provided when you scheduled your appointment.

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

While the districts permitted fall athletic activities during the summer and fall months, many were outdoor sports that allowed for some safeguards to minimize the risk of widespread transmissions. Even then, we saw many cases and quarantines associated with athletics. The risk of transmission of the virus is significantly higher indoors. It is significantly more difficult to implement risk mitigation measures, such as masking and distancing, in these activities. The chances of widespread transmission in schools is higher if these indoor activities are performed, especially when spectators are allowed.

JCDHE provides recommendation to schools. Schools and school districts have the authority to make decisions on learning modes, activities and athletics.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, loves the indoor environment. JCDHE is not recommending schools allow athletics and activities where risk cannot be mitigated, including sports that produce excessive exhalation, require close physical contact, and do not allow for masks. If these activities are allowed, schools should take adequate risk reduction precautions, including masking, cohorting teams, testing to quickly identify infections, not allowing spectators or limiting spectator attendance to immediate family members, and monitoring for symptoms. JCDHE will continue to work with schools to prevent secondary transmission and respond as necessary. Our mitigation efforts continue to depend on a mask mandate, public education and our community members following public health advice to wear masks, physical distance and other measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

In consultation with the school superintendents, the mitigation measures that have been put in place at the elementary school level have been effective at containing the spread of the disease. Similar measures are being put in place for middle and high schools. We do recognize the differences in processes between elementary and secondary schools. The ability to keep schools open will depend on how well students, parents and staff comply with mitigation measures.

The guidance now includes:

  • Within the Measures of Community Transmission and Recommended Learning Modes chart an “incidence rate category” – which is the number of cases per 100,000 over the prior two weeks.
  • We make clear that percent positive is one of the two measures that make up the gating criteria. It is calculated differently to better align with the calculation method the state uses.
  • A hybrid option for middle and high school was expanded, if schools can take appropriate safety precautions.
  • A change in the colors of the categories to be more consistent with the state.

 

Updates are made based on emerging information and community input. Since Johnson County originally released its Public Health Recommendations for COVID-19 School Learning Modes, many schools in Johnson County have returned to in-school learning. JCDHE has worked closely with the school superintendents to implement public health strategies to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Changes have been made to add consistency in guidance between the state and county.

The public health recommendations are intended to help families and school districts make decisions about the safest learning mode for students and staff in a pandemic. The recommendations are based on currently available information, data and science, expert analysis from the CDC and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Yes. Mitigation measures such as masking and physical distancing work, but they are not perfect. There is transmission risk anytime groups gather during a pandemic. The risk of transmission increases the more people are together. Risk increases with every step in the continuum of virtual learning to hybrid to in-person learning. When transmission in the community is low, risk of spread within the schools will also be low.

JCDHE will be in contact with the schools to communicate next steps when positive cases are identified, including isolation dates for the affected individual. Schools and JCDHE staff collaborate to identify close contacts and notify parents of quarantine dates.

As new evidence emerges, recommendations may change. JCDHE and school districts are working closely together to monitor community and school conditions and make amendments if necessary.

Although recommendations are no longer based on transmission activity, in the Modifying Variables section of the guidance, items for consideration are listed regarding extracurricular activities. Having these activities further increases the risk of COVID-19 into school buildings. Schools have made decisions to continue these activities, in many cases. The perceptions and requests of communities must be taken into consideration. High-risk activities that involve excessive exhalation, close physical contact, a lack of masks and lack of sufficient ventilation must be factored into decisions at the school and district level.

The COVID-19 incidence rate is the key metric the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) looks at when determining the current recommended phase for schools. However, JCDHE also considers several other factors when changing the recommendations to school districts. JCDHE also looks at the trend of positivity rate and additional indicators including the trend of cases, the capacity of the school districts to assist in case investigations and contact tracing, and public health capacity. JCDHE also considers the risk of spread within school buildings which can be minimized by the schools’ ability to implement mitigation measures (e.g., masking, distancing, etc.). Other considerations are factors such as student mental health, educational needs, and the impacts on families and school staff. These factors must be considered together in making decisions about the recommended learning mode. 

JCDHE does not recommend changing learning modes with every change in incidence rate or other metrics. Health department staff monitor these metrics daily and will make additional recommendations to the districts when/if the ability to implement mitigation measures become challenged. We have also been clear that districts will make decisions that are best for them in consultation with their parents, teachers, staff, and school boards. 

It is always safer for schools to offer in-person learning when community transmission is low. The community must continue to work to break the transmission cycle in Johnson County by wearing masks appropriately and consistently, physically distancing, washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, and getting a flu shot.  
 

Daily symptom screenings, physical distancing, face mask use, regular/frequent hand hygiene, appropriate ventilation, limiting room occupancy, reducing singing and shouting indoors, holding many activities outdoors, teaching proper ways to sneeze and cough into elbows, cohorting as much as possible, students and staff staying home when ill and symptom surveillance. Regular cleaning and disinfecting is important. Continued collaboration with JCDHE on case investigations and contact tracing is key. Outside visitors should be limited.

Generally, high-risk in schools means unmasked exposure within six feet for longer than 10 minutes. Low-risk is when a positive case and contacts are both masked and were more than six feet (three feet for elementary children in some cases) apart (this guidance is different than guidance for the general public). JCDHE staff and school personnel collaborate to thoroughly investigate these exposures. There will be times when parents are unable to “see” their child’s exposure in this guidance and will feel that their child should not be excluded. In these cases, there is often additional information revealed during the investigation that led to quarantine recommendations. In order to protect the privacy of all individuals involved, these details will not be made public. These situations can be frustrating, but it is important to know that JCDHE does not take the recommendation to quarantine lightly. We thank you for acting in a manner that protects others from being exposed to the virus.

The differences in the recommended learning modes for elementary and middle/high school students are based on existing evidence that shows older students can transmit COVID-19 like adults. Younger children are less able to learn online and have social and language development needs that should be addressed in person. Elementary schools are also better designed to cohort students to prevent transmission.

Spread can be minimized by limiting activities to those that are compatible with masking and physical distancing; cohorting to minimize the number of contacts (groups should be stable with limited numbers); limiting spectator attendance to family members; create distance between households in audience areas; and routine monitoring of symptoms and immediate exclusion, as appropriate. Athletics, because of excessive exhalation, close physical contact, and a lack of masks, present an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Similar risks exist with band and choir rehearsals/performances and other indoor extracurricular activities when mitigation measures are not implemented.

Our first gating criteria document was released in August.

JCDHE and school districts are collaborating to conduct case investigations and contact trace when infected individuals expose others during the school day or during school-related activities. Isolating infected individuals and quarantining people who had high-risk exposures is critical to containing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

This is not required by JCDHE. Schools/districts may have their own requirements for returning to school. All COVID-19 tests are voluntary, whether administered by JCDHE, the school or otherwise. Parental consent is required for testing of those under age 16 at the JCDHE drive-thru.

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. 

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.

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.

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 5 and older during testing clinics. Children ages 5-15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If your child is younger than 5, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Incidence rate is a measure of the level of spread and activity of the virus in the community. Incidence rates are calculated using the number of cases over a period of time normalized against a community’s population. This is the primary measure for our gating criteria as an indicator of virus spread in our community. It is a measure of the frequency of disease over a period of time. In our case, a 14-day time period.

There are many ways to look at data. Positivity rates, any way they are calculated, is one way to look at data. It can provide an indication of whether adequate testing is going on. It can also be an early indication of increasing rates of infection. No matter how it is calculated, the trends appear to be similar. It tells us the percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 over the number of COVID-19 tests performed. A high positivity rate can tell us if there is a high level of transmission in the community. It can also tell us if we are testing broadly enough and if testing numbers are down. A positivity rate of 5% or less over a 14-day period is recommended by the World Health Organization prior to reopening.

The method used previously counted each individual once whether it was negative or positive. The numerator was the number of positives divided by the number of people tested. When someone is tested for the first time they are counted as a unique test. But if that first test is negative and they go back for additional tests, those subsequent tests would not be counted, because it is the same person and they have already been counted once. Counting people once is a good way to understand how prevalent the virus was in our community. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, this wasn’t an issue because testing was limited, and few people were taking more than one COVID-19 test. As retests (and thus repeat negatives) have become more common, this rate does not reflect the impacts of these high retests. 

The new method looks at the 14-day trend to get a measure of the virus in the community. In the original method, people were tested once and counted once then not again. In the current method, JCDHE is looking at the testing that is done in each 14-day period. So, if a person is tested negative several times in each 14-day period, they are counted as one individual in each of the 14-day periods. The numerator is the number of positive cases divided by the number of people tested in that 14-day period, it is not cumulative. 

Both the previous and new views of positivity percentages are on the dashboard because there are multiple ways of viewing this information. Our goal is to continually make adjustments to provide the public with the most accurate and up-to-date data, while offering a multitude of ways to view the information.

We value input from the general public and community stakeholders. We receive feedback through emails, phone calls, social media posts and public comment during open meetings. This is very important to every public health response and initiative. To be clear, the primary premises for our public health decisions are science and data. And, the professional opinions of public health practitioners, that include other public health directors, our regional counterparts, scientists and other medical professionals, school officials and public health experts.

Decisions on the mode of learning must, however, include considerations of the educational benefits of in-person learning to students, and the emotional, behavioral and mental health benefits of being in school. The fears of teachers, administrators, staff, parents and the community about Covid-19 must also be taken into consideration.
 

The primary measure for the gating criteria is the incidence rate. It appears to have tracked very well with previous decisions. Transmission is still high in our community and we must continue to work to bring the numbers down.

We have worked closely with the school districts. They have implemented effective strategies to contain transmission within the schools. As always, districts, schools and families should make decisions about learning environment options that are appropriate for them. We have provided recommendations to them, based on current knowledge about the virus, our conversations with the superintendents and based on transmission levels in the community.

Much of the information that was previously under the Case Summary tab on the dashboard is now under a new tab called Cumulative Summary, which includes the zip code map.

On the previous dashboard, the negative and positive test results did not add up to the individuals tested, because an individual could have gotten a negative and positive test result. On the new dashboard, the data is now noted as individuals who have tested positive, individuals who have tested negative and total individuals tested.

This is a new tab that shows the number of new positives, new negatives and repeat negatives by date. It also includes an additional way Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has started calculating the Percent Positivity Rate followed by the original way the department has calculated that data point.

It summarizes key metrics by week. This information allows the public to look at trends of disease transmission within this time frame.

The Schools tab on the new dashboard replaces the Gating Criteria tab on the previous one. It displays the key metrics schools for schools to use to make decisions on learning modes. The previous dashboard displayed the Incidence Rate as a 7-day metric, while the new dashboard displays the datapoint as a 14-day metric. The Incidence Rate is the key metrics we rely on when offering school opening recommendations.

You can get regional hospital utilizations information from the jocogov.org/coronavirus page, within the red button at the top of the page. Clicking on this button will take you to the Mid-America Regional Council Kansas City Region COVID-19 Data. You can also access it in the Case Summary tab on the county dashboard. Johnson County-specific hospital utilization is available under the Case Summary tab as well.

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.

This is now located under the Cumulative Summary tab, at the bottom.

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.

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.

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Hotlines

If you have questions about Johnson County’s public health order, call the Johnson County call center.

913-715-5000
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
TDD: 800-766-3777

To report a concern, call the county's Call Center at 913-715-5000 or email [email protected].

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

Staffed by public health professionals.
913-715-CV19 (2819)
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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.