New Douglas County health officer sworn in; COVID-19 cases slowly dropping but still in red transmission phase

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Douglas County’s new health officer, Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, made her appointment official, taking the oath of office Wednesday afternoon.

Schrimsher, an infectious disease specialist at LMH Health who served as deputy health officer for about a year, takes over the position from Dr. Thomas Marcellino. He submitted a letter of resignation in January after a decade in the role.


Schrimsher takes the helm as new COVID-19 cases in Douglas County are dropping, but still at levels where spread is a concern.

Wednesday’s rolling 14-day average of 50.07 new cases reported per day is a big drop from the same statistic a little more than a month ago when the county hit an omicron variant-driven all-time high of 340.

For perspective, 50 is higher than the delta variant peak of about 42 new cases per day in September 2021, but lower than the November 2020 high of 82.

Click here to see the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence, the Lawrence school district, and Douglas County on the Times’ dashboard.

Also, 50.07 is still just inside the red phase of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s established “community transmission indicator.” The numbers aren’t set in stone, but once there are fewer than 1,000 active cases in the county — on Wednesday, the health department reported 1,164 active cases — and the rolling average of new cases per day drops below 50, health leaders could move the county into the yellow phase.

Health guidelines in the yellow phase drop to recommending masks for anyone ages 2 and up in indoor public places, rather than a communitywide mask mandate. Outdoor dining, socializing in small groups and going to fitness or recreation centers with masks and appropriate distancing are also recommended.

The level of positive COVID-19 tests has also dropped significantly from the Jan. 21 peak, when more than one-fourth of COVID-19 tests came back positive. On Wednesday, that number was 3.3%.

In a community update Wednesday, Rebecca Smith, a spokesperson for LMH Health, acknowledged that COVID numbers continue to improve and thanked readers for their ongoing efforts to support the hospital.

“It makes a difference!” she wrote.

Seven people were hospitalized at LMH with COVID on Wednesday — three with active cases and four recovering, Smith wrote.

Throughout the pandemic, 619 Douglas County residents have been hospitalized with COVID and 130 county residents have died from it, according to the health department.

Schrimsher did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

See the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence and Douglas County on The Lawrence Times’ stat dashboard at this link.

Find out where you can get the free COVID-19 vaccine at this link.

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