Just in time for flu season, Riley County is seeing a decrease in active COVID-19 cases, and health officials point to better behavior as a reason for the reduction.

There are fewer new COVID-19 positives each day and the rate of positive cases is going down, said Vivienne Uccello, Riley County public information officer.

As of Friday, the positive cases in Riley County since the start of the pandemic stood at 1,795. Of those, 239 were active cases, 1,548 people recovered and eight have died. From Monday to Friday, there had been 219 new positive cases and 668 additional recoveries.

The positive rate reached a peak of 34.3% from Aug. 23 to 29. The county reported a 13.3% positive rate from Sept. 13 to 19, the most recent week available.

“From what I can tell, there’s been a lot of compliance with the mask requirements,” Uccello said. “Talking with K-State officials, they’re receiving fewer complaints about mask violations. Most of those complaints are not for actual violations — they see somebody walking along without a mask, and that is still in compliance.”

K-State’s mask policy requires everyone to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses in all indoor and outdoor spaces unless someone is alone in a private office or work space or alone outdoors.

Lafene Health Center at K-State also reports decreasing numbers. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 18, they had 72 confirmed positive cases as compared to 104 the previous week. The percent of the tests coming back positive is down to 8.65%. The week of Aug. 24 to 28, it had reached 26.40% with 222 positive cases.

Uccello said mask compliance is just one of several factors, which may have led to the improved stats and it is difficult to pinpoint one action.

“It’s about behavior,” she said. “People making the choices to prioritize safety in their lives, and maybe not going to a gathering or just being a little bit more disciplined about following regulations as they become aware of the consequences of kind of not doing that. Maybe not having the house parties or participating in some of those more risky activities.”

The large number of recoveries is partly due to the increased availability of contact tracing staff to conduct follow-up interviews.

“With fewer new cases to call, contact tracing staff have been able to reach out to existing patients in order to confirm recovery,” she said. “Most of the recovered patients in (Friday’s) report were first diagnosed in mid-to-late August.”

The health department is recommending people get those flu shots this year, even if they haven’t in the past, Uccello said. “It’s always a good idea to get your flu shot but especially this year,” she said.

The Riley County Health Department is partnering with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas National Guard to offer free COVID-19 testing from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at City Park Pavilion and from 5 to 7 p.m. at 401 W. Chase St. in Leonardville on Oct. 1.

The drive-up COVID-19 nasal swab test is free and no appointment is necessary. Organizers ask participants to wear a mask and follow traffic signs at the testing locations. The Flint Hills Wellness Coalition will provide free food to participants.

Beginning Monday, the health department will open its flu clinic from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Appointment are required and can be made by calling 785-776-4779.