TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ health department has suspended its reporting on individual businesses and locations where clusters of coronavirus cases have occurred after only a week, saying it wants to make sure the data does not include cases that aren’t current.
The department’s top administrator, Dr. Lee Norman, acknowledged that the data the agency began releasing Sept. 9 about coronavirus clusters could leave the impression that some outbreaks currently are more severe than they are, The Kansas City Star reported. Norman said the department wants the data to better reflect current cases.
The department said it expects to resume releasing the data next week. The agency had resisted releasing the information for months but then said it would disclose institutions that had more than five cases in the previous 28 days and businesses linked to at least 20 cases. It said clusters would be removed once there were no new cases for 28 days.
“If there’s old info from March and April but it’s still going on then that’s not a material risk to those people,” Norman said. “It’s important that people have actionable and recent, current, contemporary information to make choices on.”
Kansas reported 596 clusters as of Wednesday, accounting for nearly 12,000 reported cases, or almost 24% of the nearly 51,000 cases reported in the state since early March. But the health department said only 191 clusters remained active, accounting for about 6,700 cases.
The department reported an outbreak at a Simmons Pet Food Plant in Emporia, but Julie Maus, a spokesperson for the Arkansas-based company, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that fewer than 1% of the 1,200 employees currently have the virus. That would be below the threshold of 20 cases used by the health department in naming businesses.
The department replaced the site-by-site listing on its website with a statement beginning, “We received lots of feedback, both positive and negative, after releasing the locations of active outbreaks last week.”
Business groups had complained that releasing the locations of clusters could lead to public shaming and economic harm.