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KDHE weighs in on claim questioning Secretary Norman’s ‘deceptive’ chart

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Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the KDHE, provides an update on coronavirus cases in Kansas, Aug. 5, 2020. (KSN Photo)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman shared a chart Wednesday, August 5, showing the average daily coronavirus cases in Kansas. It compared counties that require masks with ones that do not require masks.

Dave Trabert, CEO of the conservative think tank Kansas Policy Institute, criticized Dr. Norman in an online article claiming the health secretary used a misleading presentation to bolster the argument for requiring people to wear masks in public — as the debate continues over imposing mandates to get the virus under control.

On August 5, Secretary Norman presented a chart showing the average daily coronavirus cases in Kansas. It compared counties that require masks with ones that do not require masks.

Trabert criticized Dr. Norman because the numbers on the “Y” axis uses two different measurements, he argued that if they used the same scale, the lines would be much closer together, and they would both show a decline in cases.

Secretary Norman acknowledged in an interview that the chart might have caused confusion but said the central point — that requiring masks checks the virus’s spread — remains valid.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment released the following statement Monday:

“The information KDHE shared on the graph during last Wednesday’s press conference was accurate. However, we recognize that it was a complex graph and may not have easily been understood and easily misinterpreted. Yes, the axes are labeled differently – a point Dr. Norman made and clarified when presenting this chart at the press conference,” said Kristi Zears, Director of Communications for KDHE, in a statement.

The statement continued: “Mask mandated counties had a drop of 34.4% of cases/per 100K population, as compared to counties without a mask mandate that had an increase of 0.7% from July 12th to August 6th. The key metrics from the graph show that mask mandates have dramatically decreased the rate of cases in the counties that have the mandates. Also, the general decline in the rate of cases for Kansas is being driven by the declines in these mask counties.”

The state health department reported Monday that Kansas has had 31,730 confirmed and probable coronavirus virus cases as of Monday, up 3.6% or 1,092 cases since Friday. The department also reported another seven COVID-19-related deaths to bring the total to 387.

For more information on the latest COVID-19 cases in Kansas, click here.

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