Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM

Update: These Kansas counties are ordering residents to stay home

Posted Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM
 Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service
Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service

Editor's note: On Tuesday, Sedgwick County joined five other Kansas counties and issued a stay-at-home order for their 500,000-plus residents to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The emergency order is scheduled to begin on Wednesday and last 30-days.

--------

By CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN
Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE — Six Kansas counties are ordering residents to stay home unless they’re buying groceries, getting health care or carrying out other essential tasks.

The orders apply in Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth, Douglas, Miami and Doniphan counties. Gov. Laura Kelly said she’s not ready to issue her own statewide shelter-in-place order, but that could change.

Six Kansas counties have issued stay-at-home orders. Others are considering them.
Six Kansas counties have issued stay-at-home orders. Others are considering them.

After all, the state’s latest projections suggest the number of COVID-19 cases could grow five-fold in the next week.

“The crisis continues to evolve by the hour,” she told reporters on Monday, “a statewide stay-at-home order may indeed become unavoidable.”

For now, Kelly said, she’s limiting all public gatherings statewide to 10 people — a drop from the 50-person cap she had already set.

“We are starting to see serious cases in every age group, not just among our seniors,” she said. “If we all do our part now, we can get this under control much more quickly, which will lead to more lives saved.”

Kansas had about 80 known cases of COVID-19 when she spoke, but health officials expected that number to hit between 300 and 400 over the next seven to 10 days.

Only a small fraction of the population has been tested. So the true number of Kansans with the virus will be higher.

Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth and Douglas counties (and nearby Missouri counties Jackson, Clay and Platte) announced their stay-at-home orders over the weekend. Those start Tuesday and run to April 24.

Miami and Doniphan counties followed suit. Miami County’s order starts Wednesday and lasts until April 23. Doniphan’s starts Thursday and runs through April 6.

Sedgwick County commissioners have approved a similar order that isn’t finalized yet

 Lawrence's iconic Mass Street bars and restaurants are among the many businesses closed. Credit Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service
Lawrence's iconic Mass Street bars and restaurants are among the many businesses closed. Credit Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Health officials have made clear they saw little choice, given that seemingly healthy people are carrying the virus.

“There is emerging evidence” from Johnson and other counties “of transmission by pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people,” Douglas County’s order says.

Even with schools and dine-in restaurants already closed, Douglas officials worry it’s not enough to prevent a wave of seriously ill people from overwhelming the health system. In that scenario, Kansas hospitals would run out of ventilators and beds for patients, and protective gear for workers.

The county’s stay-home order requires many businesses to close, though gas stations, banks and certain others will stay open.

Taking your pet to the vet is okay. Going to a friend’s house for dinner isn’t.

Going for a jog is okay, but if you prefer a local gym, you’re out of luck.

Douglas County said the strategy “is even more important in the context of limited testing capacity, as is the case in the Kansas City area.”

Johnson County was the first Kansas county with confirmed community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Health officials there have scaled back testing.

Kansas City area residents and public officials are frustrated with the lack of easy testing access, though at least one local clinic has launched drive-through testing for patients with doctor referrals or who have first contacted the clinic’s hotline.

Last Friday, the Kansas health secretary said his agency would likely run out of test kits within a day. Over the weekend, 500 more kits arrived, which officials hoped would be enough for this week.

However, the state health department will focus on testing health care workers and first responders who have been exposed to COVID-19 or show symptoms.

“Spain has about 10% of its cases in health care workers,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Early testing is part of the state’s strategy to avoid the same trend.

The state’s other priorities include testing patients in situations where a cluster of people all came down with COVID-19 symptoms, or involving group settings such as nursing homes.

People who don’t meet the state health department’s criteria can still seek testing through commercial labs by seeing their primary care provider.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at [email protected] org.

Continue Reading Great Bend Post
Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM
UPDATE: What Kansans need to know about the COVID-19 coronavirus
Health officials say one way to stop the spread of the new coronavirus is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas News Service

The new coronavirus is spreading quickly around the world, including across Kansas, and setting off a range of responses.

The Kansas News Service is boiling down key developments in the state and updating the status regularly here. To read this information in Spanish, go here. This list was last updated at 2:35 p.m. March 29.

CASES AND DEATHS

321 cases, including two from out of state (see map for counties)

6 deaths (4 in Wyandotte County, 2 in Johnson County)

NOTE: These figures only include cases confirmed with lab tests and do not represent the real, unknown total. Community transmission is occurring in parts of Kansas.

STATEWIDE ORDER TO STAY HOME

Gov. Laura Kelly is instituting a statewide stay-at-home order as of 12:01 a.m. March 30. It will last until at least April 19. Stay-at-home orders allow people to take care of essential activities (such as grocery shopping or going to work) as well as exercise outside, but otherwise keep to themselves. 

The state’s stay-at-home order supersedes at least 13 county-by-county orders. Should the state’s order lift before a county’s is through, the county can choose to keep its own in effect.

SHOULD I SELF-QUARANTINE?

For the whole state: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is now mandating home quarantine for 14 days if you've traveled to the places listed below. If you come down with symptoms (such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing or shortness of breath) during those 14 days, contact your health care provider and explain your potential COVID-19 exposure.  

  1. Louisiana or anywhere in Colorado on or after March 27.
  2. States with known widespread community transmission (California, Florida, New York and Washington) on or after March 15.
  3. Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.
  4. Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado (if your visit was March 8th or later).
  5. Cruise ships or river cruises on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should also finish out their quarantine.
  6. International destinations on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their international travel should also finish out their quarantine.

TESTING AVAILABILITY

As of March 27, Kansas health secretary Lee Norman said the state lab was handling 175 samples a day. But Kansas will receive more equipment within about a week that will let it handle 700 to 1,000 samples daily, though shortages of specialized supplies such as nose swabs may still hamper work at times. 

Norman said there’s enough capacity in the state, now that testing has ramped up through commercial labs and hospitals. State testing is reserved for high-risk groups, such as sick nursing home residents and health care workers. Others can ask their doctor or nurse practitioner to order through private labs.

What Kansas still lacks is enough testing material to study COVID-19 rates among people without symptoms.

KANSAS HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

It gives the state government more power to marshal resources and triggers the state's response plan. The state Legislature has extended Kelly's declaration through May (and can extend it), with the aim of giving her the ability to make certain decisions when lawmakers aren’t in session.

On March 22, Kelly eased state rules to expand the use of telemedicine, to temporarily license more health workers and to allow heavier trucks on Kansas highways hauling relief supplies. On March 23, she ordered a ban on evictions if a tenant was unable to pay because of the coronavirus crisis. And she extended the income tax filing deadline to July 15, in line with a delay for filing federal tax forms.

HOW ARE UNIVERSITIES RESPONDING?

K-State, University of Kansas and Wichita State: All of them will go fully online for the end of the school year. Students at K-State and KU will need special exemptions to remain in dorms.

Other colleges: Washburn and Fort Hays State are online. Newman University expanded spring break for two weeks (March 14 to March 29). Johnson County Community College will close campus from March 14-29, and all courses will restart online March 30. Pittsburg State started break a day early and will resume classes indefinitely online on March 30.

HOW ABOUT K-12 SCHOOLS?

Gov. Laura Kelly and Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson have shut down all K-12 schools, public, private and parochial, for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. They had initially issued a strong recommendation that schools close March 16 through 20. 

Some county health departments had already issued similar orders. 

A Kansas State Department of Education task force has issued guidance to school districts on how to continue some amount of student learning. 

WHAT’S BEEN CANCELED OR SUSPENDED?

The governor’s executive order temporarily banning landlords from evicting businesses or residential tenants is effective until May 1. That same order put in a moratorium on any mortgage foreclosures through the same period.

The governor mandated on March 23, through an executive order, that gatherings be restricted to less than 10 people.

Kansas state workers: Access to the Statehouse is limited to official business only, and lawmakers went on break early. Kelly wanted most state employees to stay home for at least two weeks starting March 23.

State prisons: The Kansas Department of Corrections ended visitation at all state facilities, and will “re-evaluate on an ongoing basis.” It urges families to talk to inmates through email, phone calls and video visits. 

Electric companies: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time due to the “unprecedented challenge” of coronavirus that “may result in customers facing unexpected or unusual financial strain.”

Casinos: All four state-owned gaming facilities will close at the end of business on March 17, and remain so until at least March 30.

Public events: Many events and public places around the state have been canceled until at least the end of March. 

Sports: The Kansas State High School Athletics Association canceled the state basketball tournament midway through it. And the Big 12 suspended spring sports until March 29.  

HOW BAD IS THE VIRUS? 

COVID-19 usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, found in older adults and people with health issues, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time or can lead to death.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID IT?

  1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
  2. Cover your coughs.
  3. If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, put off any vacations and limit your trips to the grocery store or any public space.
  4. Stay home if you are sick — this goes for all ages.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON COVID-19

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.