Big Cass County Party Halts Summer School Activities, Strains Local Health Department | KCUR 89.3


A party that has brought together hundreds on the eve of Independence Day has Cass County public health officials scrambling to track down possible coronavirus infections that already number in the dozens.

The rally prompted two school districts to cancel summer activities for two weeks, and the local health department was “pushed to capacity” as it tried to find infected people. The aftermath of the holiday comes as the county recorded the highest number of new cases – more than 70 – last week.

Cluster tracing

As of July 10, the Cass County Health Department linked five positive cases to the party. Four days later, that number rose to 25.

Since there was no guest list, trying to track people who might have been exposed is especially difficult. Initially, the health department was told by the attendees that around 100-200 people could have attended the party. But director Andrew Warlen said he has now heard there are as many as 400 people there.

On Tuesday, the department tested 135 people for the virus in a free testing event specifically for party people and their close contacts.

For a small healthcare facility, Warlen said this has pushed his staff to capacity. Four new people hired to respond to the effect of the pandemic have helped. These new jobs are paid for by federal coronavirus relief funding.

“At the moment, we are able to… meet demand,” said Warlen. “It certainly pushes our people. “

But he’s worried if cases continue to rise. The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates that health services need 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people. Warlen said Cass County is “well below” that figure, even when regular health service staff are included.

Missouri ranks last in the country in per capita public health funding, according to state health access data support center analysis 2019 funding levels.

“When you don’t have that infrastructure, you kind of catch up,” Warlen said.

The rise in the number of cases has not strained the local hospital, according to Cass Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Sonya McLelland.

Coronavirus patients who need to be hospitalized for further treatment are taken to the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, as that hospital has more intensive care specialists, intensive care beds and ventilators, McLelland said in an e -mail. If there is an increase in hospitalizations, Cass County Hospital has four isolation rooms to care for coronavirus patients.

“We are not a bubble”

Since some revelers were also involved in summer school activities, the Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville school districts closed after-school activities for 14 days. The case illustrates some of the difficulties schools may have in managing face-to-face classes in the fall.

“If these behaviors continue, we are going to have epidemics that will impact our education, as well as our extracurricular activities,” said Pleasant Hill Superintendent Steve Meyers.

The school district closed all of its sports and extracurricular activities because it did not know “the extent of the exposure at the large weekend rally or all of the students who were potentially exposed to it,” Meyers wrote in a report. letter to parents on Friday.

Near Harrisonville School District Superintendent Paul Mensching said he was concerned similar parties could happen once school started.

“Everyone understands that if we open schools in the fall, that we are going to have positive tests, we will put these layers of protection in place to keep things as safe as possible. However, we are not a bubble, ”said Mensching. “We cannot 100% prevent the spread of COVID-19. “

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