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Gove County health professionals discuss COVID-19 cases, deaths following national report

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:24 PM CST
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GOVE COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - With numbers showing that about one out of every 132 of its people has died from COVID-19, a report published last week in USA Today calls Gove County “The deadliest place in America.” The distinction comes because, as of last Thursday (Dec. 10) COVID-19 has killed a higher percentage of Gove County residents than any other county in the U.S. As of late last week, there were 20 COVID-19-related deaths in the county with a population of about 2,600 residents.

While COVID-19 has hit the rural community hard, Eyewitness News spoke with Gove County Medical Center CEO David Caudill who said recent numbers tell a different story, showing improvements from the past couple of months. In October, Caudill was among 50 employees at the hospital in Quinter who tested positive for COVID-19. In response to a spike in cases, the Gove County Commission on Nov. 23 passed an emergency resolution that requires masks in public.

The first case of COVID-19 in the county was reported in late March. The first two COVID-19-related deaths were reported in early October. As of the latest report from last Wednesday (Dec. 9), there have been 299 COVID-19 cases, 75 hospitalizations and 20 deaths in Gove County.

With the emergency action taken by county leaders, Caudill said things are actually getting better in Gove County. Of his near 200 staff members, half of them have already had COVID-19 and recovered. He said the county’s overall positive test rate is also dropping each week. While optimistic in the situation continuing to improve, he didn’t take the national report lightly.

“Number one death-per-capita in the nation, it’s just not something that we want to be known for. We know that we have a great community and great people,” he said.

Gove County Medical Center Marketing Manager Wade Richard indicated speculation about what’s happening in the county doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Just know that we’re doing everything we can possibly do here and our community members are too,” Richard said. “I can’t tell you how many of them have stepped up and brought in food or gifts or water bottles with ‘thank you’ packages (to the hospital).”

Gove County Sheriff Alan Weber has been hospitalized since mid-October and has been on a ventilator for weeks at a hospital in Denver. Weber’s family asks for prayers and there is a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the family’s travel expenses to Denver.

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