Early this week Marshall County remained one of just four counties without positive tests for COVID-19 in eastern Kansas. Until Wednesday. The county now has one confirmed case, according to the Marshall County Health Department.
Until this week, Marshall County was one of 13 statewide among Kansas’ 105 counties without any report of the illness.
“We’re continuing to watch cases in Riley County and Nemaha County, nearby,” said Ermel Heuer, infection prevention director at Community Memorial Healthcare in Marysville on Tuesday. “We’re concerned that reopening has led to increasing numbers, and people need to understand that we still need to do social distancing. We don’t want people to see reopening as ‘whoop, this is over,’ as it is far from over.”
All Kansas counties without cases have been relatively remote and rural. But Marshall County’s more populated neighboring counties to the north and south are recording rising active caseloads.
Riley County reported a steady increase to 124 in recent weeks. Kansas State University’s football team in Manhattan placed its summer training on hold last week as more than a dozen players tested positive for the virus.
In Nebraska, Gage County reports 47 cases, with two positive tests in the last two weeks.
Lancaster County, with Lincoln, has had a total 1,617, including 254 cases in the past 14 days, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday.
“Truly, until there is a vaccine or herd immunity, this is not something that is probably going away,” Heuer said. “I feel that we will be dealing with this until next year.”
Residents of Marshall County overall have “played it smart” so far, said Heuer, who plans to retire next week after a career in nursing.
“They’ve followed the guidelines and done what they’ve been asked. They’ve taken it seriously, and cared enough about each other to do what was needed to be done. I believe that the community as a whole has worked awesome together. Emergency management, public health, the hospital, nursing homes, the schools, businesses and the entire community have all worked toward this goal.”
As people start traveling for the summer, Heuer said, she hopes they steer clear of certain states identified with hotspots.
“And continue social distancing, wearing masks, and taking extra care with hand hygiene,” Heuer said.
Pottawatomie County, south of Marshall County, shows 51 cases so far this year. To the east of Marshall, Nemaha County’s number was at 23 as of Tuesday. Washington County remained with one reported positive early this week.
The bulk of Nebraska’s cases are concentrated in the state’s eastern half, including several cities with meatpacking plants.