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Butler County disputes claims from state officials about uptick of COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus in Kansas

BUTLER COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – After being labeled by the state as one of 13 Kansas counties not improving when it comes to the coronavirus, one county says this is not true.

The statement was made Monday by Governor Laura Kelly and Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Doctor Lee Norman. The state released a map that shows counties with a green down arrow, like Finney and Ford, their daily case rates are decreasing. Those with a red up arrow, like Reno, Sedgwick, and Butler, their daily case rates are increasing.

Butler County officials said the numbers used during the KDHE’s briefing were taken out of context and only show a snapshot in time and not the full picture of where the county is trending now.

“We were a little disturbed to see that they were regarding us as one of the counties that were headed in the wrong direction,” said Keri Korthals, director of Butler County Emergency Management.

Butler County officials say if you take a closer look at the numbers, there’s a reason for the brief spike in cases. From May 21st through June 3rd, the county says it saw 18 positive cases. Sixteen of those were due to a single incident where one infected person from outside the county caused a brief spread amongst close contacts.

“They were worked by our health department very quickly. The cluster was contained and really there wasn’t any type of community-wide impact. And so even though it did cause a surge in our numbers the overall impact to our jurisdiction was very small,” said Korthals.

The county also concerned the KDHE’s report may impact public trust.

“Public trust in what our local officials are doing and public trust in that the state is reporting one set of numbers and then they turn and look at the county and the county is reporting a different set of numbers,” said Korthals.

Besides the two cases the county health department received today, it had no new cases since June 3.

“But we haven’t entered into a situation where we have community spread where it’s just out and popping up randomly,” said Korthals. “We hope to maintain that trend but as we’ve seen every day is different with this disease. Keeping our guard up being cautiously optimistic but being prepared.”

KSN reached out to the KDHE for comment. They are standing by their claims.

“The data on the trend map we displayed is accurate and was pulled on June 12 and covered the time period of May 25 – June 7. We used symptom onset dates, not the dates cases were reported. For the disease spread metric, we do not use the most recent five days as information is still coming in. We appreciate Butler County’s communication with the public regarding their cases,” said Kristi Zears, KDHE director of communications.

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