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Predicted Pitt State COVID spike fails to materialize

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun

PITTSBURG, Kan. — As the month of January crept to a close, Crawford County health officials warned that a large surge of new COVID-19 cases could come in the near future as Pittsburg State University students returned to town for the Spring 2021 semester.   

“We do expect that we’ll have a bit of a spike over the coming weeks,” Crawford County Public Health Officer Dr. Tim Stebbins said at the Crawford County Commission meeting on Feb. 5. “Just with the remixing with the college students coming in and with activities in the community.”  

However, since students’ return, the surge has not been as devastating as previously thought.  

Cases numbers in the 18 to 24 age group have remained steady since the start of the new year, although that age group does continue to make up the largest portion of new cases each week reported by the Crawford County Health Department

The week of Jan. 17, right before students returned to campus, the county reported 218 new cases, with 34, or roughly 16 percent, of those cases in the young adult (18 to 24) age group. Two weeks after students returned to Pittsburg, numbers in the 18 to 24 age group fell to 20 new cases and the overall number of new cases fell to 132.  

As of last week (through Feb. 13), the county reported only 84 new cases and 13 of those affected 18-to-24-year-olds.  

Numbers in older age groups, that students would likely interact with, have also not seen a massive increase since PSU classes resumed. The week after classes resumed, cases for 25-to-44-year-olds did rise to 43 new cases — nearly double what was reported for the age group the previous week — but the following week, it had once again fallen back down to only 25 new cases. New cases for those older than age 44 have remained relatively stable since the return of PSU students. 

However, Stebbins and other officials recognize that the fall in cases could just be due to bad winter weather that has prevented symptomatic people from getting tested.  

Students returned to campus the week of Jan. 19 and since then, the university has reported around ten new cases a week. Much like in the fall, students who planned to move back into the dorms were required to get a negative COVID-19 test result before being allowed to move in.  

“In advance of the semester, Bryant Student Health Center tested every student moving into a residence hall,” a PSU press release from Jan. 27 said. “A total of 580 students were tested with 12 positives.”  

Crawford County and PSU continue to work together to keep the pandemic at bay, and numbers are updated daily by both entities.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net