Gov. Laura Kelly ordered flags flown at half-staff through sundown Friday in honor of the 7,000 Kansans who contracted COVID-19 and died since the pandemic began in March 2020. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly directed flags be lowered to half-staff Tuesday through Friday in honor of more than 7,000 Kansans who perished after contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The state Department of Health and Environment reported the 7,001st death tied to coronavirus statewide, meaning almost 300 fatalities among Kansans during December.
“It is with great sadness that I am ordering flags to half-staff for the seventh time since the pandemic began,” Kelly said.
She said executive order on lowering the flags would remain in place until sundown Friday, Dec. 31.
Updated KDHE statistics on COVID-19 indicated testing identified 519,544 cases of the virus in Kansas since March 2020. That represented an increase of more than 49,000 known cases during December. Johnson and Sedgwick counties both reported in excess of 91,000 cases of COVID-19. One-fifth of the 105 counties in Kansas have documented 5,000 cases or more.
During December, KDHE said, an additional 1,200 people residing in Kansas have been hospitalized with COVID-19 for a pandemic total of 16,964.
Kelly repeated a request for Kansans to be vaccinated for the virus as the Delta variant worked through the population ahead of the Omicron mutation.
“We have the tools to stop this virus and prevent further unnecessary deaths of our loved ones. Whether you are considering your first shot, or your third, I urge all Kansans to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the governor said.
Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said one in 100 Americans over the age of 65 have died from COVID-19. In Kansas, KDHE reported 78% of fatalities linked to COVID-19 were among people 65 or older. Fifty-five percent of the Kansas deaths have been among men.
Jessica Kalender-Rich, a physician at KUHS specializing in geriatric medicine and palliative care, said concern for nursing facility patients and staff was justified.
“We are seeing case numbers lower for the fully vaccinated and hospitalizations lower for those fully vaccinated,” she said. “What’s great is that the vaccination rates among residents is high, but the booster rates are pretty low.”
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