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.

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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.

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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

Note: A Spanish-language version of this article can be found HERE.

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 4:10 p.m. April 7.

CASES AND DEATHS

900 cases (see map for counties) and 223 hospitalizations

27 deaths  (the state is no longer disclosing which counties are seeing deaths)

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. View additional charts showing the disease’s spread over time and other trends here.

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?

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

Some doctors recommend patients with COVID-19 symptoms stay home even if they test negative for the disease, because of concerns that current testing approaches may be producing a significant number of false negatives.

TESTING AVAILABILITY

Several hospitals across the state now offer drive-through testing, but patients must get doctor approval in advance or else will be turned away. Many Kansans can’t be tested unless they’re sick enough to be hospitalized, and results may take up to a week. 

That’s because testing supplies remain limited and private labs helping many clinics and hospitals have large backlogs of samples. Hospitals trying to buy equipment for in-house testing say vendors are backlogged, too. The state will soon have several portable machines that can conduct 5- to 15-minute tests, and plans to lend them out to facilities most in need.

Some Kansas hospitals have succeeded in getting the testing materials and can give patients their results within a day. The state health department lab in Topeka can handle several hundred samples per day — a fraction of the demand.

Under a new federal law, you should not have to pay for your coronavirus test, regardless of insurance status (but patients could still see related bills). Separately, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest private insurer, says some patients won’t have to pay for coronavirus treatment.

HOW ARE UNIVERSITIES RESPONDING?

Public and private universities and community colleges in the state will finish this semester via online classes. Spring sports have been canceled. Most staff travel has been suspended. Graduations at KU, K-State and Wichita State are postponed or rescheduled.

The University of Kansas and Wichita State also plan to hold summer classes online. KU and K-State announced hiring freezes in early April. 

HOW ABOUT K-12 SCHOOLS?

In mid-March, Kansas became the first state in the U.S. to shut down school buildings for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. A state task force then issued guidance for distance learning, for which students aren’t expected to spend more than a few hours a day. 

Some districts that make high schoolers earn more credits than required by the state will graduate them this year based on the state’s lower bar. 

Districts across the state are still providing free meals to eligible children, but some have stopped because of concerns about the coronavirus spreading at meal pickup sites.

WHAT IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IS AFFECTED? 

  1. Church gatherings and funerals: Effective April 8, the governor has prohibited services of more than 10 people. That doesn’t count people performing the rituals or funeral workers, but they must stay six feet apart from each other.
  2. State tax deadline: Extended until July 15, in line with a delay for filing federal tax forms.
  3. Evictions: Business and residential evictions are banned until May 1 if a tenant is unable to pay because of the coronavirus.
  4. Mortgage foreclosures: Foreclosures are banned until May 1.
  5. Small businesses: May be eligible for emergency federal loans. Find information here.
  6. Hospitality businesses: Kansas created an emergency loan program, which quickly ran out of funds, but businesses can still apply to help the state assess the need for more assistance.
  7. Utilities: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time. 
  8. Gatherings: Restricted to fewer than 10 people throughout the state.
  9. State of emergency: Kansas’ declaration is good through May (and can be extended). It gives the government more power to marshal resources and Kelly the ability to make certain decisions when lawmakers aren’t in session.
  10. State workers: Access to the Statehouse is limited to official business only through April 19. Most state workers are doing their jobs remotely.
  11. Prisons and jails: 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. County jails largely have ended visitations as well. 

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. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth mask in situations where social distancing isn’t possible; instructions for sewn and non-sewn versions are here.
  4. If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, limit your trips to the grocery store or any public space.
  5. 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.