OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County Health Department is focusing much of its attention on getting the numbers of COVID-19 cases down before the start of school, and that means testing as many children in the county as possible.
A quarter of coronavirus tests are now reserved for children ages 5-15 before the start of school at the Johnson County Health Department campus at 11875 South Sunset Drive in Olathe.
Katie and Drew Lynch packed up their family, including their two-, four- and six-year-old kids, for a trip to the testing site so 6-year-old Emmie Lynch could get tested before school starts.
“It would make us feel better to know that at this point in time we are not going to be a risk of getting others infected,” dad Drew Lynch said.
Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Health and Environment, predicts COVID-19 will be spread in schools. There’s a testing gap in the younger population, and getting better data for transmission in that age group is especially important before the start of classes.
During the stay-at-home order, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Johnson County was between 12-14 per day. The high after reopening was 116, and now the county is seeing around 90 new cases per day, which means Johnson County is still in the red zone.
The big question Areola is asking now: “Can we lower the number of cases a day so that we have room, a buffer if you will, to accommodate the expected increase because schools open?”
Areola said 10-20% of asymptomatic people are responsible for 80% of COVID-19 transmission, and since children often don’t show symptoms, the spread to school staff and families is a big concern.
By testing children now, it gives those who turn up positive enough time to isolate and let the virus pass before the start of school.
Areola has been working with the superintendents of schools in Johnson County and is impressed with what they are doing to keep kids safe and mitigate the spread.
He cautions that going back to school should be for learning purposes and not the extracurricular activities that go along with a normal school year.