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Kansas City Isn't A Coronavirus Hot Spot Yet, But New Cases Are On The Rise As People Begin To Congregate

Sylvia Maria Gross
KCUR 89.3
Swimmers practice social distancing on the beach at Watkins Mill State Park on Sunday, July 5. Most public health officials agree that camping is a relatively low risk as long as at least six feet of social distance between non-family members can be maintained.

Coronavirus cases in metro Kansas City continue to climb as residents return to work and socialize in bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces.

Kansas City, Missouri, had 278 new cases last week, while the rest of Jackson County reported 221. Countywide, nearly 300 COVID-19 patients have required hospitalization.

“We know there’s a lot of fatigue as we’ve been in a pandemic a long time now. People feel like they can relax, but they really can't,” said Kayla Parker, spokeswoman for the Jackson County Health Department. “It's even more important now that things are opening up, that they continue to be proactive about those preventative measures.”

Statewide, 23,856 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus, and 1,028 patients have died. Gov. Mike Parson has said he won’t issue any kind of a mask mandate because people should take “personal responsibility” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 Kansans have tested positive since Wednesday, the last day statewide numbers were reported before the holiday weekend, bringing the total to 16,901 cases and 280 deaths.

To get ahead of the curve, Gov. Laura Kelly issued a statewide mask order that took effect Friday. County officials can opt for less restrictive measures than the public mask mandate, though Wyandotte and Johnson counties have not.

It will be at least five days before cases connected to Fourth of July gatherings are reported, though outdoor gatherings like barbecues and picnics are generally safer than getting together indoors. Although some cases were linked to large gatherings at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend, coronavirus is much more likely to spread in enclosed spaces.

That could be a problem as hot weather pushes people into the air conditioned indoors.

Parker said that masks should be worn indoors in most circumstances, including in most work cubicles as offices reopen this month.

“If you are not in your own enclosed office, you need to be wearing a mask, even if you can maintain that six-foot social distance,” Parker said.

Parker added that it is still dangerous to socialize in large groups. It’s also risky to expand your social circle beyond household members.

Finally, Parker said Kansas Citians should pick up if they get a call from a unknown number, as it might be a contract tracer alerting them to potential exposure.

“It's really essential that people are making the time to take that phone call, give us a call back and talk through who they've potentially exposed and we’re they’ve been so that we can make sure to limit that spread,” she said.

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