Doctors hope mask-wearing is taking hold

Wyandotte County reported an additional 19 COVID-19 cases on Monday afternoon, for a cumulative total of 7,812, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths reported, for a cumulative total of 145. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)

When it comes to masks, the Kansas City area seems to be doing a better job than previously, according to University of Kansas Health System doctors.

Discussing mask-wearing at the Monday morning news conference, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer, remarked that when he went shopping recently in Kansas City, Missouri, he saw a lot of people wearing masks, even when they were outdoors walking around. Not too many were not wearing masks.

That was a positive development, considering that case numbers were higher during the past few weeks in Greater Kansas City.

Mask-weearing is much better than a few months ago, Dr. Stites added. Also, people seem to be wearing their masks right, he said.

He said he shared the frustration of a resident who went someplace where masks were not being worn.

“We know mask-wearing is the single most important barrier you could provide,” he said.

Masks are better than face shields, he said, because particles can still come out with shields.

Dr. Stites advised residents when it freezes, to go outside with a member of your group, take a look at your breath and see where it goes.

“It’s just ridiculous that people still want to politicize something that saves lives,” he said.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster, Johnson County public health officer, said that he agreed, and that it was unnecessary that it has become divisive. They hear comments every week from people at public meetings who feel that wearing a mask is a violation of their rights, he said.

All the agencies have been doing the same kind of public health work for the past 60 years, he said.

More than 200,000 people nationally have died as a result of the pandemic, and this is not something that people should be divided over, he said, nor should it be politicized.

Dr. LeMaster said the increase in cases in the Greater Kansas City area has been caused by people not wearing masks and not socially distancing.

Mask-wearing is mandatory in Wyandotte and Johnson counties when in public places, and when around others who are not in your household. Not wearing a mask can be reported, he said.

Also at the news conference, Dr. Jessica Kalendar-Rich, a specialist in geriatrics who is on the national Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality, discussed how nursing homes are starting to allow visits from patients’ relatives. However, the visits are limited in time, and they are not allowed as frequently as before the pandemic.

Under federal guidelines, there must be a certain amount of distance for the visits, a limit on time, and a record is kept of the visitors. There are now federal mandates on testing workers at nursing homes, she said, depending on case rates in the community.

Wyandotte County reported an additional 19 COVID-19 cases on Monday afternoon, for a cumulative total of 7,812, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths reported, for a cumulative total of 145.

Kansas reported an additional 2,113 COVID-19 cases from Friday to Monday, with 13 additional deaths reported, for a cumulative total of 72,968 cases and 872 deaths, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment COVID-19 webpage

According to KDHE figures, Johnson County reported an increase of 292 cases since Friday for a cumulative 13,702; Leavenworth County reported an increase of 47 since Friday for a cumulative 2,534; Shawnee County (Topeka area) reported an increase of 83 since Friday for accumulative 3,318; and Sedgwick County (Wichita area) reported an increase of 350 since Friday for a cumulative 10,927.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the KU Health System, reported a slight increase in COVID-19 patients at the hospital. There were 32 acute COVID-19 patients hospitalized, an increase from 26 on Friday, with 11 patients in the intensive care unit, the same as Friday, and eight on ventilators, the same as Friday. At one point this past weekend, there were 37 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. There are another 32 patients still hospitalized from COVID-19 but in the recovery stage, a decrease from 35 on Friday. HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 16 COVID-19 patients on Monday, a decrease from 19 on Friday, with two of the patients in the recovery phase.

Free testing offered

A free COVID-19 pop-up test will continue from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at All Saints parish, 811 Vermont, Kansas City, Kansas. The pop-up test is through Vibrant Health and the Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force.

The Unified Government Health Department moved its COVID-19 testing Monday from the 6th and Ann location to the former Kmart at 78th and State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. The hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tests are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County.

The tests now are open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule because of the weather or for other reasons. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.

For more information about the new testing site at the former Kmart location, visit

The KU doctors’ news conference is at

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at

The Unified Government COVID-19 hub outbreak map is at

To see an NEA list of schools that have had COVID-19 cases, visit

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at

The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at

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