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State passes 1,000 COVID-19 deaths; flags to fly at half-staff

Andrew Bahl
abahl@gannett.com
Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday that flags would be flown at half-staff in honor of the more than 1,000 Kansans who have died of COVID-19.

Over 1,000 Kansans have died due to COVID-19, according to updated data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment released Wednesday, with Gov. Laura Kelly ordering flags flown at half-staff to mark the milestone.

Since Monday, 3,369 new infections were reported, according to KDHE, although almost half of those cases stem from the department updating its system over the weekend, creating a reporting lag.

An increase of 31 deaths was also reported, bringing the total to 1,007 overall. Over 170 of those deaths have occurred since the beginning of October.

Kelly said it was with “deep sadness” that Kansas crossed the 1,000 death mark and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff across the state to honor those who have died.

“One of the many terrible impacts of this virus has been that families are unable to hold in-person services to mourn the passing of their loved ones,” Kelly said in a statement. “Each one of these Kansans was someone’s child, parent, or grandparent. They were part of a community.”

Some of the most pronounced case increases have been in western Kansas, with Kelly previously saying the rise had pushed her administration to consider “all available avenues” to increase mask-wearing.

Instead, both the governor and Republican lawmakers announced Tuesday an agreement to work with local officials in an effort to voluntarily increase mask-wearing in counties without a mask mandate, which includes most parts of the state.

But hospitals in the Wichita-area are reporting that their COVID-19 wards are at or near capacity, Sedgwick County officials said Wednesday morning. Additional options for overflow spaces are being considered and emergency funds sought, they noted.

Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, which previously raised the alarm about the increase in cases in and around Reno County, again urged residents to do more to stop the pandemic’s spread.

“We are seeing the highest numbers of COVID patients of the pandemic right now in Reno County,” Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System president Ken Johnson wrote in a statement. “Positive test results are up and COVID hospitalizations are at a higher rate than before. Our positive test rates are very high and nothing but careful attention to the ways we behave will bring them down.”

Statewide, over 8,000 beds are available, according to the KDHE dashboard, with 48% of intensive care beds open. Since Monday, 106 new hospitalizations were reported.

The state’s seven-day moving average for test positivity rates sits at 20.7%, the ninth-highest rate in the country.

“We need to be worried that with schools reopening, people trying to gather more, a lot of COVID weariness and people just saying the heck with the mask, the outcome of that is we’re seeing more disease,” said Scott Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.