Kansas health secretary wary of Lake Perry motorcycle rally: ‘I’m sure we’ll see an outbreak’

New case rate among worst in nation; 12 deaths added to state total in two days

By: - September 2, 2020 8:32 pm
Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the state wouldn't plan to inoculate children for COVID-19 because the vaccines hadn't been approved for younger people. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the state wouldn’t plan to inoculate children for COVID-19 because the vaccines hadn’t been approved for younger people. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas health secretary Lee Norman renewed warnings Wednesday about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, including a deadly two-day spike, and cautioned Kansans against participating in a large motorcycle rally planned for Lake Perry.

State officials also announced they plan to reveal the locations of outbreaks — a decision previously delegated to county officials — starting Sept. 9.

Kansas now has the sixth-highest new case rate in the country. Health officials recorded 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,328 new infections between Monday and Wednesday, bringing the overall statewide totals to 458 deaths and 43,940 cases.

There are currently 178 active clusters, including 14 outbreaks and 106 cases associated with sports. The clusters were traced to six college teams, six high school teams and two camps.

Five outbreaks are at public schools, where most students haven’t even returned to class yet.

Norman issued “a cautionary note” about the ABATE of Kansas rally, which starts Thursday, at Lake Perry in Jefferson County. The annual Labor Day weekend event is expected to attract 5,000 people.

“We can anticipate that although it’s much smaller than the Sturgis, South Dakota, event — the Sturgis one has spawned hundreds of cases across 14 states already — I’m sure we’ll see an outbreak related to this Lake Perry event,” Norman said.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office said the state next week will begin naming the locations connected to five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state will name private businesses associated with 20 or more cases.

“With our children returning to school, sports resuming, and college campuses reopening, we’re seeing the largest increase in outbreaks to date,” Kelly said. “By sharing where the outbreaks take place, Kansans will be better informed about the threat of COVID-19 in their schools and communities, and will be better prepared to contain and stop the spread of the virus.”

Norman said the information will address public concerns about nursing homes and schools that choose not to divulge an outbreak.

“It’s not meant to cause a great deal of heartache in businesses, schools, churches and organizations,” Norman said. “It’s meant to provide information so people can make informed choices as to how to keep themselves safe.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.