Spike in Government-run Jails Masks the Public’s Work to Flatten the Curve

Joy Eakins and Chris Wyant Cornerstone Data share their data analytics with a client.

As schools made reopening decisions this last week, multiple board members and parents decried the lack of community compliance with public health directives.  Many blamed the public for increasing cases in the state.  But what if the public is not to blame.

In Dr. Norman’s press conference on Wednesday, August 26, he cited statistics from a non published White House Report that indicated in the last week Kansas had 108 per 100,000 new cases per week.  He stated that this rate places Kansas as the 16th highest new case rate in the country.  The US average is currently 93 per 100K.

While these numbers and trends may be troubling, there is context in the data that we believe Kansans should know.  Clusters in government-run prisons in Kansas are part of the reason this number is so high. Between August 9 and August 22, we’ve collected the following reports of new cases in correctional facilities:

Larned Correctional Mental Facility107
Hutchinson Correctional Facility256
Sedgwick County Jail545

According to KDHE, within the same timeframe, there were 6,200 new cases in the state of Kansas.  The rate per week over those two weeks is 106 per 100,000.

However, if we remove the jail cases – our new rate is only 91 per 100,000 – a full 2 points below the US Average of 93.  That means the case rate in just 3 jails is so high that it raised the entire state’s rate by 15.

In Dr. Norman’s press conference, he also talked about the Kansas percent positivity rate ranking 6th in the nation at 10.3% while the U.S. Average is only 5.8%.  Unfortunately, KDHE does not post this data for analysis, but in the counties where these jails are located, we have found that the percent positive can be impacted by as much as 8%.  One jail had an almost 40% positivity rate.  These are likely inflating the numbers for the entire state – but until KDHE changes their reporting practices, we won’t know.

The data seems to suggest that citizens are doing their job to flatten the curve.  Hopefully, government leaders will keep that in mind when making decisions that impact our daily lives.