Kansas will begin publicly disclosing the names and locations of COVID-19 clusters, Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration announced Wednesday,
Currently the state discloses how many case clusters there are overall and in what sector they occur, such as correctional facilities or long-term care.
Counties could make the decision to disclose the exact locations of outbreaks within their jurisdictions. Not all local officials elected to do so, however, with a Wichita Eagle investigation finding that this was particularly true for counties that saw outbreaks in local meatpacking plants.
But under the new policy starting Sept. 9, specifics will be provided if there are five or more active cases associated with a given location. The names of private businesses won’t be disclosed unless there are 20 or more cases tied to it.
The state defines an outbreak as "two or more cases associated with one known exposure."
The information will be made available on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website, something the Kelly administration said is in line with recommendations from the federal government.
As of Wednesday, KDHE is reporting 178 active clusters in the state, accounting for 5,007 cases. Most of those are in conjunction with an outbreak at a private business or long-term care facility.
The state has seen over 1,300 new cases and 12 new deaths since Monday.
"With the numbers all going in the wrong direction ... we have to start getting more serious," KDHE Secretary Lee Norman told reporters. "One of the ways to do this is to provide people the information they need."
In a statement, Kelly said the move was in anticipation of more cases linked to colleges and universities, as well as K-12 schools, statewide.
"With our children returning to school, sports resuming, and college campuses reopening — we’re seeing the largest increase in outbreaks to date," Kelly said. "By sharing where the outbreaks take place, Kansans will be better informed about the threat of COVID-19 in their schools and communities, and will be better prepared to contain and stop the spread of the virus."
Some of the state’s most prominent universities, such as the University of Kansas, already make testing and case count information public.
Local health officials in Riley County, home of Kansas State University, have also made information available about outbreaks within fraternities and sororities.
Norman insisted that the measure was not "mean to cause a great deal of heartache" for businesses or organizations.
"We are pro-business," he said. "We want businesses to thrive and be a safe place for people to do commerce."