Unified Command: Two years of COVID-19 in Douglas County (Column)

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A new strain of coronavirus began to make its way around the globe in early 2020. While Douglas County had its first scare in January, it wasn’t until March 17 that it began to hit home. A young man traveled back from Florida, testing positive for COVID-19 upon his return. 

It’s now been more than two years since the virus disrupted our community. More than 25,000 additional cases have been diagnosed, upending and impacting lives in ways that no one could have imagined. Our community unified in the fight against COVID-19, banding together to implement measures that lowered the number of positive cases and ultimately hospitalizations and deaths.

Douglas County has seen lower positive case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths than other Kansas counties. This is due in part to the mitigation measures and the willingness of community members to step up and care for one another. Statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment showed that if Douglas County experienced negative impacts from COVID-19 at the same rate as the rest of the state, we would have had 7,824 additional positive cases, 183 more hospitalizations and 195 more deaths. 

It’s thanks to your efforts that the impact of COVID-19 has been reduced in our communities. You stepped up and made the choice to protect your friends and neighbors, even when it wasn’t easy. Healthcare workers repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way to care for those who were sick and injured, even when the system faced challenges that had not been seen before. Volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure residents had access to testing and vaccinations. 

These efforts were made possible through the coordination of local nonprofits, private businesses and government agencies. The leadership of Douglas County Unified Command was integral to the success of these efforts, mobilizing the response to the crisis. The group, spearheaded by leaders from the City of Lawrence, Douglas County, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, LMH Health, the University of Kansas, USD 497 and the Lawrence Chamber, came together to provide direction for our community over the course of the pandemic.

As our community begins to shift into a recovery mode, these groups may be called upon less frequently but the impact of their work will be felt far into the future. We’re appreciative of their work and for the sacrifices of every community member over the course of the past two years. We mourn those who we have lost and who have been impacted by COVID-19, but we’re hopeful for the future. 

Douglas County Unified Command leaders:
Dan Partridge, director of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health
Russ Johnson, LMH Health President and CEO
Sarah Plinsky, Douglas County Administrator

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