Accoding to the Johns Hopkins university coronavirus tracker, yesterday the US recorded 59,494 cases of coronavirus. That is the highest daily total on new cases since 14 August. The country recorded 985 new Covid deaths.
Andy Tsubasa Field and John Hanna have been reporting for the Associated Press in Kansas, where rural northwestern communities have endured some of the state’s biggest spikes in cases last week.
The pandemic arrived late, but it’s now stressing Gove County, which has had to send patients to hospitals in other towns. The county’s 22-bed medical center only has a handful of beds dedicated to coronavirus patients and not enough staff to monitor the most serious cases around the clock.
The local nursing home had most of its 30-plus residents test positive, and six have died since late September. The sheriff, the county’s emergency management director, the hospital CEO and more than 50 medical staff have tested positive. Even so, some leaders are reluctant to stir up ill will by talking about how often friends and neighbors wear masks or questioning how officials responded.
Local officials quickly abandoned a mask mandate this summer after getting heat from some residents and amid Donald Trump’s criticism of such policies.
The state health department said coronavirus cases in Gove County doubled during the two weeks ending Wednesday, from 37 to 75, and that spike was proportionally among the largest in Kansas. But locally, officials and doctors say the number is actually far higher at 140.
“We have community spread to the point that we have not been able to pin down the root cause of any of our cases for the past month,” said Dr. Scott Rempel, the county’s health officer.
The county commission imposed a mask mandate starting 6 August, when only a handful of cases had been reported, but repealed it 11 days later. Rempel said it was “heartbreaking, from a public health perspective.”
With officials’ response to Covid-19 politicized in an election year, Kansas’ Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature have been at odds for months. More than two-thirds of Gove County’s voters are registered Republicans, and Trump carried the county with nearly 85% of the vote in 2016.
Quinter resident Judy Wolf, a cook at a senior center, said media outlets reporting on the pandemic need to “quit making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Everybody’s going to get it and go on with your lives,” she said. “The only ones that are dying are the ones with other health issues.”