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Shawnee Co. Health Officials present concerns on COVID-19 variants



TOPEKA, Kan. – Shawnee Co. health officials are monitoring how the COVID-19 virus is changing.

“Mutations make the virus better at getting people sick and they do this because they make the virus better at spreading from person to person,” Shawnee Co. Health Officer Dr. Erin Locke told commissioners.

“They’re also better at making the virus able to hide from our own immunity or escape.”

Of the 136 cases of COVID-19 variants in Kansas 22 are in Shawnee County.

“I believe it’s becoming the primary cause of new cases in the county,” she said.

“An interesting finding is that a lot of it is being found in college-age people and younger.”

Dr. Dennis Cooley, a retired pediatrician and chair of the Public Health Technical Advisory Board said that trend creates its own challenges.

“Pediatric surge is a lot different than adult surge and we don’t have the capacity for pediatric hospitalization like we do adults,” he said.

“Transmitting an adult ICU to a pediatric ICU is a lot more difficult than it may seem.”

Cooley said he is remaining alert about what the changing demographics could mean.

“Kids are not going to be able to get vaccinated soon,” he said.

“I think that in the future the next few months, especially, that kids are going to be playing a more important role in the pandemic than they have in the past.”

Locke said the variants serve as a reminder to continue taking precautions.

“People who are vaccinated are being protected so getting vaccinated is the best thing that someone can do to protect themselves,” she said.

“The vaccine still works against these variants wearing your mask still works social distancing still works there are no surprises I’ve said this so many times you can repeat it in your sleep.”