As the end of the fall semester approaches, leaders in the COVID-19 pandemic response at the University of Kansas talked about the recent surge in cases statewide and urged students to continue following public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease and Control before they leave campus.
Statewide, communities are reporting a record amount of COVID-19 cases and hospitals are struggling to keep up, said Vice President for Performance Improvement at the KU Health Systems David Wild.
“The population adjusted number of new cases per day in the midwest is higher than anywhere else in the country and higher than any other time in the country,” Wild said. “We’re seeing an increase of stress on our hospitals widely across the state.”
In Douglas County, new cases of the coronavirus have increased in the last week or so, KU Head of Emergency Management Andrew Foster said.
“Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen people relax their posture and we’ve seen [coronavirus case] numbers rise,” Foster said. “Almost 50% of cases in Douglas County are coming from gatherings where people have relaxed their posture.”
As officials highlighted concerning trends in cases of the coronavirus across the state, region and country, they urged KU students to continue taking steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re really pleading with our community, and with the Lawrence campus community, to do everything in your power to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Wild said.
Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer urged students to continue following the guidance of health officials as they return home by wearing a mask and socially distancing.
“You have to put care of yourself and others first. You have to recognize that wearing a mask and socially distancing is the best thing you can do,” Bichelmeyer said.
Chancellor Douglas Girod announced last week KU will offer free testing for students before Thanksgiving break.
“There’s testing available,” Foster said. “If you have symptoms, we have plenty of testing available. If you are travelling and require other testing, we do have some asymptomatic testing available as well.”
As students prepare to return home for the holidays, Foster stressed it’s likely that Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations will need to look different to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“Thanksgiving won’t look like a normal thanksgiving. Christmas this year won’t look like Christmas in years past,” Foster said. “If you’re doing Thanksgiving with people outside your family unit, consider eating outside and separating immediately after you eat.”