Kansas, KCK area seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases

A map and graph showed the increase in COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Wednesday. (KDHE map and graph)

Kansas jumped to 126 positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday morning, up 28 from yesterday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Wyandotte County reported 27 total positive cases at 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to KDHE statistics. It was three more than the 24 cases that were reported as of 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Johnson County’s total was 44 positive cases at 11 a.m. Wednesday, KDHE reported. Johnson County had 36 cases on Tuesday morning, March 24.

Leavenworth and Sedgwick counties had 11 cases each on Wednesday, while Douglas County reported a total of 10 cases.

Some of the positive cases reported earlier have recovered.

Wyandotte County reported its second death in a COVID-19 patient on Tuesday night. The state now has three deaths associated with COVID-19. A “stay-home” order went into effect earlier Tuesday in Wyandotte County and surrounding counties, and will be in effect through April 23 here.

Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said today the rate of growth in Kansas isn’t nearly as high as New York and Washington, but is in keeping with many other places in the United States.

Dr. Norman at a news conference today said the expectation for the state of Kansas and everywhere else is that the number of positive cases will double about every three or four days. Kansas could have 300 to 400 positive cases by March 31, perhaps closer to 400, he said.

“Our goal is to stay home, top the number out and level it off, drop it down,” he said.

Many of the persons testing positive now for the coronavirus may have been infected two to 14 days ago.

Dr. Norman did not expect to see immediate results from the shelter in place order or from voluntary stay-home efforts because some people are looking at the order, trying to see what the exceptions are and how to wiggle around them, he said.

“That is exactly the wrong approach,” Dr. Norman said. He asked people to stay at home whether or not an order with exceptions is in place, or whether it is voluntary.

“We’re grownups, so you have the ability to make a decision, the ability to do this,” he said.

It’s not a game of avoiding staying at home through the exceptions, he said.

“If you must go out for essential tasks, observe those social distancing rules,” he said. The rules are proven to work, he said.

About 4.5 percent of all tests run in Kansas have had positive results, he said. Those tests have been run on ill people, in general, he added.

The KDHE has not had enough test materials all along the way, and has had to use fever as a criteria of testing in hospitals, he said. When more tests become available, he would like to expand testing, and do studies of COVID-19 incidence in the population.

Currently, private labs are doing commercial testing in Kansas, along with the state, and physicians are able to order private testing from commercial labs if the patient does not meet hospital criteria, according to Dr. Norman.

The KDHE still must keep watch over its tests, he said, as supplies have been short. It has set priorities on testing, with health care workers and first responders a priority; along with potential clusters with unknown respiratory illness; hospital patients with no alternative diagnosis who have been through other tests; and those over 60 with symptoms who live in nursing homes, long-term care homes, congregate settings and adult day cares.

The state lab has been going through about 150 to 200 samples a day, he said.

It also has about 25 pages of requests from counties and health care organizations for personal protective equipment that is needed. That might include masks, gowns and gloves.

On Tuesday, Kansas received two semi-trucks of supplies from FEMA, he said, that will help the situation.

While Kansas has a lower population than other states, with fewer cases, Dr. Norman argued it should have the same right of personal protection equipment per capita as larger populations.

He said they are working with providers and federal agencies to acquire ultraviolet light sterilization devices so masks and equipment can be reused up to five times. Currently, ultraviolet light is used to sterilize rooms after patients are discharged. The masks might be able to be reused five to six times before discarding if the sterilization devices are acquired and approved, he said. The masks would only be used for the same patient, not for multiple patients, he added.

Dr. Norman said at this time, there is no reason to suspect ibuprofen or nonsteroidal medications would worsen COVID-19, as has been discussed in Europe.

The state has a task force currently working on planning for bed space, ICU beds and ventilators, he said.

He also said some faster tests are being developed that may take as little as 45 minutes to get results, which is important to health care. Hospitals are beginning to develop their own capacity to do testing, he added.

Dr. Norman said he would like to develop satellite locations, especially in high population areas, where test samples can be drawn, and at some point to do a study. That would help determine if persons who are asymptomatic are infected and spreading the coronavirus. In turn, that would help health care officials know when everyone can return to normalcy, he said.

Dr. Norman said people need to take staying at home seriously.

“Adults should not require declarations in place,” he said. They should follow doctors’ advice.

When asked if it was likely that things would get back to normal by Easter, as President Trump has stated, Dr. Norman said, “I think that’s unlikely.”

While people are allowed to go out under the emergency stay-home order for necessities such as groceries, local health officials have asked sick people to stay home. Those who need medical care may call their primary health care provider and wait for a call back with instructions for their next step.

Doctors urge residents to stay home

Doctors from the University of Kansas Health System said today, in a different teleconference, that they are beginning to see an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City area.

There are more positive patients at the hospital, according to Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System. The system includes KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.

“We’re starting to feel the surge and working really hard to make sure we have enough supplies and equipment, knowing if that surge continues as we expect, it’s going to be a challenge,” he said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

What will help is for people to stay home and stay safe, he said. Fewer people will get sick, and hospitals will have enough supplies and equipment if people stay home, he believes.

Because Kansas City has less density than New York or the West Coast cities, and because Midwesterners tend to be socially conscious and will work hard to follow the advice of doctors and health officials, he said he hopes the measures taken will work.

While health professionals are appreciative of the efforts of those who want to help by making masks at home, the doctors at KU said they probably couldn’t use the fabric masks unless they were made at a biologic grade with specific material. The homemade masks possibly could be worn by ill patients at home, one doctor said.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical direction of infection prevention and control at the KU Health System, was appreciative, but said that fabric masks tend to get wet or moist from coughing or water vapor, and then they might act like a sponge, drawing in whatever is in the air. Wearing one of the masks could give someone a false sense of security, he added.

“If you want to know how to help, it is to stay home,” Dr. Stites said.

The doctors said there wasn’t much knowledge available about COVID-19, and advised residents to be careful about claims they are hearing about products that could make them feel better.

What really works best is to get enough sleep, eat right, don’t drink too much alcohol because it might depress the immune system, stay hydrated and stay home, Dr. Stites said.

Ashleigh Adams, RN, a nurse on the front lines at the hospital, said nursing at the bedside has changed quite a bit with an increase in positive COVID-19 patients. Some of the units at KU Hospital have been converted to care for COVID-19 patients.

At the bedside, it’s very different with COVID-19 patients, Adams said.

The positive patients are very tired with general malaise, and are scared, she said. The nurses are trying to reassure them, comfort them and provide for their needs, she said.

“They’re already away from home, and it’s hard,” she said. “And now they can’t have visitors, for understandable reasons, it makes it hard.”

The nurses are encouraging phone calls, and have seen increases in calls from families, she added.

Dr. Stites said none of the nurses in these units had previous experience in caring for COVID-19 patients, and have stepped up to take on the cases. “Hats off to them,” he said.

“To see people pull together like that is a remarkable story,” he said.

“If people will help them by staying home and staying safe, then we will not put our teams at risk,” he said. “You ask what you can do, that’s what you can do.”

To view the KDHE news conference, visit https://www.facebook.com/KDHEnews/.

To view the KU Health System news conference, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6fgr2UsyrI.

The Kansas COVID-19 website is at

The UG’s COVID-19 response website is at

COVID-19 information from the CDC is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

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