Gov. Laura Kelly and KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman should be providing comprehensive information that puts COVID-19 in context but instead, they’re fear-mongering and manipulating data to scare Kansans into submission. Kansans need access to accurate data so they can make informed decisions instead of being told how to think and behave.
Last Friday, Norman told media that Kansas is "losing the battle" on COVID-19 and he blamed residents for "refusing" to consistently follow public health guidelines. He’s simply focusing on the number of reported cases instead of things like hospitalization rates, hospital capacity and the survival rate. There’s also a case to be made that the number of cases is artificially inflated.
That same day, the state published data showing COVID has a very high survival rate; 100% for kids aged 0-17, 99.7% for adults 18-64, and 91.9% for adults 65+.
Almost half of the COVID deaths thus far occurred in nursing homes. This raises the question of why the impact was so acutely felt among the most-vulnerable population and who is to blame. As the Kansas City Star’s Michael Ryan wrote, a May 13 "guidance" memo from KDHE "sure appears to order nursing homes to admit patients regardless of their COVID-19 status."
The virus can be very serious (and deadly) for some people with compromised immune systems and other serious complications. Pneumonia can also be deadly, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, it has claimed the lives of 1,262 Kansans through Oct. 2; that’s 65% more than the 766 COVID deaths in Kansas reported by CDC this year, yet the state isn’t taking any "new" action on pneumonia.
And what about the people dying not from COVID, but as a result of the draconian effects of closing schools or not allowing in-person learning?
As the Sentinel reported last week, a Blue Valley mom (called Stacey in the story to protect her identity) whose son tried to commit suicide said it’s frustrating to see school board meetings where the board only cares about one thing — COVID cases, and not the other ripple effects of isolation.
"That narrow thinking is killing our kids. It’s literally killing our kids, and we are not standing up for them," she said.
The Blue Valley school district alone has lost at least two students and a principal to suicide since the lockdowns last spring. The day Stacey was in the emergency room with her son, there were three other children there who had attempted suicide.
And then there’s the economic devastation, with tens of thousands of Kansans out of work, thousands of businesses struggling to survive and some already closed.
Yet Norman and the Kelly administration focus solely on raw case count and seem disturbed that taxpayers don’t blindly do as government officials instruct.
Now we know that many of the reported COVID cases may be false positives.
The New York Times in August reported that virologists say the COVID test cycle threshold — the number of times genetic material is amplified to find the virus — should be set at 35 or below to avoid false positives. Today, the Sentinel reported that Kansas has the cycle threshold set at 42.
Enough with the mandates, misleading claims and scare tactics.
It’s past time to let kids back in school full time for in-person learning and to remove arbitrary restrictions on worshiping, socializing and economic activity.
Dave Trabert is the chief executive officer of Kansas Policy Institute.