Cases skyrocketing in Kansas, state health official says

A chart from the KHA was shown during a news conference Wednesday morning that showed Wyandotte and Johnson county cases with large increases recently, compared to other counties in northeast Kansas.
Wyandotte County reported 3,151 total cumulative cases at noon on Wednesday, an increase of 37 since 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to the UG’s COVID-19 webpage. The number of total deaths was the same as Tuesday, with no increase, at 88. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)

Positive COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in Kansas, and “we have fumbled the ball,” Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said in a video news conference Wednesday morning at the University of Kansas Health System.

“It’s awful. We were winning the fight, and on May 26 everything started to change,” Dr. Norman said.

They are fumbling it because of inattentiveness and politics, Dr. Norman said.

Cases are skyrocketing as the state is over 20,000 cases and approaching 300 deaths, he said. On Monday, the increase was almost 1,500 from the prior Friday, he said. COVID-19 is now in almost every Kansas county.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said as the case numbers continue to rise, then they have to worry about things shutting down again.

“As we fumble the ball,” Dr. Stites said, “what we’ve done is undo all the good work people did by staying sheltered in place.”

Quoting CDC officials, Dr. Stites said people don’t have to shelter in place, they just have to wear a mask and socially distance to stop the spread of the virus. It’s not hard, he added.

Dr. Norman said Kansas is in a different place than it was in April. Numbers now have already surpassed the peak in April, he added.

Kansas is in the top dozen in terms of testing per capita now, he said, compared to April when it didn’t have enough testing capacity.

However, they’re now flooded at the state and commercial labs, so the turnaround time is getting longer. The state lab is returning tests in one lab, while commercial labs are taking longer now, he added. The state had over 1,700 samples come in on Tuesday, he said.

He said in order to keep from closing down, the state needs the capacity to do PCR testing on everyone who needs it, and they are there now; they need hospital surge capacity, and are doing pretty well in that respect right now; health care workers need personal protective equipment and are doing pretty well right now; and syndromic surveillance is in place for the state agency, which is in place.

Mass gatherings from the medical perspective are “evil,” Dr. Norman said. They have seen quite a lot of illnesses and deaths result from funerals, where people shake hands, give hugs and kisses, he said. They are seeing sadness on top of sadness, he said.

Dr. Norman said some of the problems here have been encouraged politically. When the authority passed from the state to the counties in late May, and most counties took away the mandates, is when they lost control of the state, he said. The mask mandate was turned to the counties as well because of legislative actions, he said.

While it’s true that people should not have to have mandates to do the right thing, but the Legislature hasn’t helped here in taking those things away, he said.

Dr. Stites said science just looks at the data and makes observations, and tries to interpret the data for people. People get into trouble when they try to use the scientific data to make a political point, he said.

Dr. Stites said there’s a lot that they don’t know, but they do know that coronavirus is spread when people breathe out, and masks stop it from spreading.

Dr. Stites said on Tuesday, hospitals were told not to report data to the CDC but to the Health and Human Services Department.

Dr. Norman said he was concerned about it. The data from CDC is used by the state to help monitor surge and surge capacity, he said.

He said it is like being in the middle of a house fire, trying to put out a fire, when somebody comes along and turns down the water available to fight the fire.

Dr. Stites said hospitals here are communicating with each other, and hospitals in the area have hit its highest peak since the beginning of crisis in the number of patients hospitalized. The numbers are continuing to rise, he said.

Dr. Stites reminded people that masks can stop the spread of COVID-19. He said people can see their breath in the winter, if it’s cold enough. At that time, when they breathe out, they can see a little cloud around them, he said. That cloud can travel 3 to 8 feet, he said.

“Your goal is to put a mask on and stop the cloud,” Dr. Stites said. “We can do that and we can keep each other safe, we can keep businesses open and we don’t mess up the economy.”

“When you deny the medical facts, the things you put in jeopardy are your life, your income, your economy and your loved ones,” Dr. Stites said. “That’s a terrible choice. All you have to do is wear a mask.”

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System, said they are trying to be proactive and keep them healthy. They have seen stories about people who have gone to the bars and gotten sick with COVID-19. They say later they wish they hadn’t gone to the bars, he said.

COVID-19 can have a number of different effects on people, including effects on the lungs, on the central nervous system, on blood clotting, even strokes and heart attacks, with some patients experiencing some symptoms and others experiencing other effects.

Anytime people go out and don’t take precautions, they are rolling the dice for those things to happen, Dr. Hawkinson said.

Dr. Stites said KU Health System has had 380 COVID-19 admissions so far, with 27 deaths, for about 8 percent. He said they have gotten better at treatment since the first, but the disease can still be deadly. It can affect any organ of the body, he said.

“This is a really bad virus,” he said. “It’s preventable.” People prevent it the best way they can, with good hygiene, he added.

On Wednesday morning, KU Health System reported 30 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including a couple pediatric patients, according to Dr. Hawkinson. Twelve were in the intensive care unit and two were on the ventilator. The number of total patients at the hospital on Monday was 22 and on Tuesday was 25.

Kansas reported a total cumulative 20,933 cases on Wednesday, an increase of 875 cases since Monday, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment figures. The state reported 299 deaths on Wednesday, an increase of 11 deaths since Monday.

Wyandotte County reported 3,151 total cumulative cases at noon on Wednesday, an increase of 37 since 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to the UG’s COVID-19 webpage. The number of total deaths was the same as Tuesday, with no increase, at 88.

The KDHE reported that Johnson County had 3,370 positive total cases on Wednesday, an increase of 210 cases since Monday. The KDHE figures said Wyandotte County had an increase of 220 cases since Monday.

Leavenworth County had an increase of 16 since Monday, for a total of 1,264 cumulative total cases, according to KDHE.

Testing available

Free pop-up testing through the Health Equity Task Force will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 16, at the Quindaro Community Center, 2627 Brown Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

Tests also are available each weekday for Wyandotte County residents and workers from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Health Department parking lot, 6th and Ann. For more details on the details and who is eligible for a test, visit

To view the KU doctors’ news conference, visit

For information on the amended Wyandotte County mask order, visit and

The governor’s executive order on masks is at

The governor’s news release on the mask order is at

The Wyandotte County mask order is at

A news release on the Wyandotte County mask order is at

Wyandotte County now has posted an application for nonprofits, government agencies, school districts and businesses in Wyandotte County that want to apply for CARES Act funding. The web address is

For information on how to make an easy no-sew mask, visit

For more information about COVID-19 testing, including other sites, visit Residents also may call 3-1-1 for more information about testing.

The state’s COVID-19 test page is at

Residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at or call 311 for more information.

Wyandotte County is currently under Phase 3. See

The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at

The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at

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