10 residents dead amid virus outbreak at Kansas nursing home

A coronavirus outbreak has killed 10 residents in a nursing home in a northwestern Kansas county that already had proportionally the nation’s largest increase in cases over two weeks

The health department in Norton County reported Monday night that all 62 residents and an unspecified number of employees at the Andbe Home in Norton had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The agency also said one Andbe Home resident was hospitalized, while the remaining 51 were being treated at the home.

“Steps are being taken to prevent any further outbreak, including quarantining residents in their rooms and not allowing outside visitors into the facility,” the county health department said in a statement Monday evening.

The outbreak at the nursing home came after the state Department of Health and Environment last week reported more than 100 cases at the state’s prison in Norton over the two weeks ending Wednesday.

Kansas is seeing an average of more than 700 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day, its largest numbers since the pandemic reached the state in early March.

But northwestern Kansas has been hit hard by coronavirus in recent weeks, and Norton County had the largest number of new cases per 100,000 residents of any county in the U.S. for the two weeks ending Sunday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The Kansas health department said that cases in Norton County rose from 46 two weeks ago to 340 as of Monday in Norton County. With about 5,400 residents, that was an increase of 5,484 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the state’s figures.

But the state released its report before Norton County officials confirmed that all Andbe Home residents had tested positive for coronavirus and before local officials reported 10 deaths at the home.

The 15 counties in the state’s northwest corner together had 987 new coronavirus cases during the past two weeks, an increase of nearly 49%, to bring the total to 3,024, according to state health department data. With 80,000 people living in the region, the increase was 1,226 cases for every 100,000 residents, more than three times the state’s figure.

Two other northwest Kansas counties, Sheridan and Gove, also were among the top 20 counties in the nation for the largest proportional increases in cases for the two weeks ending Sunday, based on Johns Hopkins data.

The state health department reported Monday that Kansas had 2,113 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Friday, an increase of 3% that brought the pandemic total to 72,968. The department also reported 13 additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 872 before the nursing home deaths in Norton were reported.

Kansas had an average of 729 new cases a day for the seven days ending Monday after first exceeding 700 cases a day for the seven days ending Oct. 12. The record is 743 cases for the seven days ending Wednesday.

The state on Monday also reported its first COVID-19-related staff death at one of its four hospitals for the mentally ill or the developmentally disabled.

The Department for Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the hospitals, said an employee at the state’s mental hospital in Larned in southwestern Kansas died last week but said the staffer had not been on hospital grounds for several weeks. The department did not identify the staffer.

In Olathe in the Kansas City area, a middle school classroom assistant died from COVID-19-related complications, KCTV reported. Mission Trail Middle School’s principal said in an email to parents that the staffer had been sick for several weeks and had not been in the building since Sept. 24.

Meanwhile, Gov. Laura Kelly and Wichita State University officials celebrated the opening of a new laboratory that can run 32,000 coronavirus testing specimens a week. Kansas has averaged about 29,000 tests a week over the past month, according to data from the state health department.

Kelly said the high-capacity lab will help the state identify coronavirus hot spots so that its residents can avoid them.

“We can help provide certainty that our schools and our businesses can stay open safely,” Kelly said in a statement.

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Also contributing was Andy Tsubasa Field in Topeka, Kan.

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