Police to step up enforcement of stay-home order following rapid rise in COVID-19

Unified Government officials tonight stated that they would step up enforcement of the stay-home order following a rapid rise in COVID-19 in Wyandotte County.

There has been a significant increase this week in the number of COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County, officials with the Unified Government stated.

“As of this afternoon, we have 137 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wyandotte County,” Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer with the Unified Government, said in a news release. “That’s a 191 percent increase in positive cases since one week ago. We know that Wyandotte County’s population is uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the number of residents with underlying conditions and without health insurance. We have taken aggressive action in the Kansas City region and State of Kansas, but we must be even more diligent to take care of our community in Wyandotte County.”

Dr. Greiner warned that the peak of the outbreak is still weeks away.

“We are in the early days of this outbreak,” Greiner said. “The epidemiological models we are using show that the peak number of cases won’t occur until at least the end of April. That’s why it’s vitally important that our residents and businesses comply with the stay-at-home order and practice social distancing so we can slow down the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

UG employee dies from COVID-19

Mayor David Alvey shared the news that the newest confirmed death was that of a 64-year-old man who had been a long-time employee of the Unified Government’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s always tragic to lose a member of our community,” Mayor Alvey said. “To lose a member of our Unified Government family hits particularly close to home. Our prayers are with his family at this very sad time.”

Clusters of cases

In another development, Dr. Greiner announced that at the Riverbend Post Acute Care Center at 7850 Freeman, 17 patients have tested positive for COVID-19, out of 135 total residents. Six of these 17 patients are now hospitalized. Two staff members have also tested positive for COVID-19.

Over the past several weeks, there have also been three clusters of COVID-19 confirmed positives related to religious activities. While religious activities are considered exempt from the Kansas stay-at-home order, the Health Department strongly encouraged those who practice faith to do so remotely.

On March 21, Mayor David Alvey announced that Dr. Greiner had issued a public health order requiring residents to stay-at-home. Although this order was superseded by Gov. Laura Kelly’s March 28, statewide stay-at-home executive order, both orders stress the importance of practicing social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Everyone in our community must comply with the stay-at-home order and practice social distancing,” Dr. Greiner said. “This means staying six feet or more away from everyone possible – even if they don’t have the symptoms of COVID-19. If we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, we can protect ourselves, our families and our Wyandotte County community.”

Police, sheriff stepping up enforcement efforts
Under the stay-at-home order, residents are required to stop participating in non-essential activities, and non-essential businesses are no longer allowed to continue operations until at least April 19. To mitigate the escalating spread of COVID-19, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department and the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office will begin stepping up enforcement of the stay-at-home order in Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County, beginning April 3, a UG spokesman stated. Violators are subject to a $500 fine.

“We know our residents want to be safe, and want their families and neighbors to be safe, so our hope is that all community members will voluntarily follow the stay at home order,” Mayor Alvey said. “But if it becomes necessary, we will enforce this order in an effort to protect the health of everyone we serve.”

Residents can report any businesses or individuals whom they believe are not complying with the stay-at-home order by calling the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department’s special reporting line at 913-225-4788. The line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During other hours, calls should be made to the KCKPD non-emergency number, 913-596-3000. When leaving a message, residents should include their name, a call-back number, the address of the business or individual believed to be non-compliant, a contact name for the business (when possible), and the nature of the perceived violation.

Residents with COVID-19 symptoms should call their primary health care provider or self-report their symptoms at www.wycokck.org/COVID-19 or by calling 3-1-1.

For more information, visit the UG’s COVID-19 page at www.wycokck.org/COVID-19self reporting, news releases and additional resources
or call the UG’s 3-1-1 call line for residents who have questions

Kansas reports five more COVID-19 deaths; number of cases rises to 620

Kansas reported 620 COVID-19 cases on Friday, April 3. (KDHE map)
Wyandotte County reported 139 positive cases on Friday, an increase of 29 cases since Thursday evening. (UG COVID-19 website graph)

Wyandotte County reports one more death, and total of 139 cases

Kansas reported five more deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 17, according to reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Positive cases rose by 68 statewide on Friday to a total of 620, according to Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, and the rate is still on the rise.

One of the new COVID-19 deaths was from Wyandotte County, according to the Unified Government’s COVID-19 website. Wyandotte County now has a total of 6 COVID-19 related deaths, with 139 positive cases and 40 persons hospitalized from COVID-19 at 5:15 p.m. April 3, according to the UG’s COVID-19 website.

Johnson County reported a total of 7 deaths as of April 3, an increase of three deaths since April 2, according to the Johnson County Health Department COVID-19 website. Johnson County went from 161 positive cases on April 2 to 172 cases on April 3.

Kansas added 138 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past two days, Dr. Norman said.

Dr. Norman said there have been clusters of cases in long-term residential centers in Johnson, Wyandotte and Coffey counties, where caregivers or residents have contracted the disease.

Some recent online mobility reports from various sources have shown that Kansans have traveled around 35 percent less than before the stay-home order went into effect.

Dr. Norman said the state would reach the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic quicker once it gets to 45 percent and 55 percent. The community mobility reports, such as one from Google, are not sponsored or funded by the state.

“We cannot let up on social distancing and stay-at-home,” he said.

Ages 20 to 44 account for 29 percent of the COVID-19 positive cases in Kansas, and Dr. Norman said many persons in that group could be asymptomatic, not feeling as ill as others, so they may be going about their normal activities even though there are stay-home orders. They also may be less likely to follow rules and don’t feel as vulnerable.

Some in the older age groups may understand they’re at risk, while some of the younger persons may not feel they’re at risk.

He said everyone needs to stay home, as they could be carrying the coronavirus and not know it.

Gov. Laura Kelly said a lot of 24-year-olds have parents and grandparents, and if they don’t stay home for themselves they should do it for their parents and grandparents.

Dr. Norman said they are working with local health departments to increase the COVID-19 testing in communities, which will help them assess how widespread it is in communities.

Dr. Norman also said the state KDHE is managing the medical cases of persons in the Lansing Correctional Facility who have come into contact with persons who are positive for COVID-19. The local communities’ health departments are managing community contacts of the workers who were positive, he said.

At 11 p.m. Thursday night, Kansas received its final allocation of supplies and equipment from the federal stockpile, Gov. Kelly said. During the weekend, the state will be doing inventory and sending the supplies to counties, she said. Kansas will receive 90 percent of its allocation, she said, and will not get the other 10 percent, which will be sent to somewhere else that is in need.

The state has put in several other requests since mid-March to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and has yet to receive any of those shipments, she said.

She said the state will clear out its inventory by next Tuesday, sending supplies to counties, and will need to get restocked. Kansas has put in some orders from private companies, but has been experiencing shipping delays, she said.

April 4 will be four weeks since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Kansas, Gov. Kelly said.

“It’s a bit jaw-dropping to reflect on how much of our world has changed in such a short period of time,” Gov. Kelly said.

She said she must think about the economic challenges waiting for Kansas once they get to the other side of the public health emergency. That includes jobs, small businesses and economic recovery.

On Friday morning, Gov. Kelly signed a new bipartisan 10-year transportation plan for Kansas, Senate Bill 173.

She said it offers a visionary approach to Kansas infrastructure, so that the state has the flexibility to address immediate needs and secure more opportunities for the future.

“Investing in Kansas’ infrastructure means putting people to work,” she said, as well as fixing roads and bridges and safer transportation for children.

All remaining T-Works projects would be let by July 1, 2023, she said. KDOT would establish metrics making sure highway preservation needs are fully funded before adding to the current highway system, she said. Emerging needs would be met with new projects selected every two years, she said.

According to the legislation, each Kansas county would receive at least $8 million in transportation improvements, she said.

Broadband and new technology improvements are included, she said.

Gov. Kelly also mentioned the paycheck protection program, a new $350 billion federal program passed by Congress last week, that formally launched Friday through the Small Business Administration. It offers small businesses low-interest loans, and the loans would be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks, and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

This program will help Kansas small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll and will be available through June, she said.

Lenders are bracing for an onslaught of applications, she said. Kansas banks only received final rules and guidance for the program from the federal government last night, and the governor urged small businesses to apply and to be patient with local lenders as they work through the regulations as quickly as possible.

Gov. Kelly also said the state launched a new jobs website through the Kansas Department of Commerce, connecting job seekers with businesses, including some essential positions. The website, kansasworks.com/coronavirus, allows businesses to post positions that are open, at no cost to the employer or job seeker.

Gov. Kelly’s news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/GovLauraKelly/.

The Kansas COVID-19 website is at
https://govstatus.egov.com/coronavirus.

The UG’s COVID-19 response website is at
www.wycokck.org/COVID-19.

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

KU Medical School to graduate 52 doctors early to help in COVID-19 crisis in Kansas

The University of Kansas Medical School, with one of its campuses in Kansas City, Kansas, will graduate 52 medical students early to help in Kansas with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The early graduation will come just at the time that COVID-19 is rising and may peak in Kansas, according to doctors at a University of Kansas Health System news teleconference Friday morning.

The announcement came as Wyandotte County reported 119 positive COVID-19 cases at 8:15 a.m. Friday, an increase from 108 positive cases here Thursday evening. Kansas had 552 positive cases on Thursday morning.

Many of the new doctors will be available to assist in areas where there may be a shortage of physicians, according to Dr. Mike Kennedy, associate dean for rural medicine at KU Med, who spoke at the news conference. The newly graduated medical students will work alongside practicing physicians in the program, called Kansas Pandemic Volunteer Health Care Workforce.

The new doctors are expected to serve in April and May in Kansas, before starting their residencies.

Dr. Jeff Colyer, former governor of Kansas, came up with the idea for the early graduation. Colyer is a clinical associate profession in plastic surgery at the KU Medical School, and frequently has participated in medical missions to war zones and epidemics. He currently serves as chair of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.

“We are clearly going to need surge capacity,” Dr. Colyer said at the news conference. Sometimes medical students take a break between graduation and starting their residency, but this year, 52 students have volunteered for assisting throughout Kansas.

“They’re incredibly service-minded,” Dr. Colyer said.

The students will be available to assist practicing physicians and in hospitals in Kansas, doing whatever tasks they are assigned, such as seeing patients or doing tests.

Kennedy said the senior medical students wanted to help.

He also said they will not miss out on any of their education, and will complete all the requirements first. Those who have now completed all graduation requirements will be available for the program first, and those who have yet to complete some requirements will be available at the end of April, he said.

The degrees will be conferred early, and they will receive a special permit through the Board of Healing Arts to work temporarily under a supervising physician, he said.

Some Kansas counties have only one or two physicians, according to the doctors at the news conference.

While the discussion at the news conference centered on the new graduates helping rural communities in Kansas, they also would be available to help cities in Kansas with a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Dr. Kennedy.

He said the new graduates will be matched to places of need. Groups including hospitals, the Kansas Medical Society and Kansas Academy of Family Physicians are being notified about the program and may offer the students a position. So far, the eastern portions of the state have the most requests, he said. There also are some areas in western Kansas that are beginning to feel pressure from COVID-19, he said.

Dr. Colyer said that nationally, the picture is shifting with some spread heading to rural areas and across the state. He said the new doctors might be used for seeing less acute patients, drawing blood, running an EKG or other tasks.

“They’re energetic and ready to go,” he said.

Dr. Kennedy thanked the Patterson Family Foundation, which donated $1 million for this program. The foundation originally was founded by the late Neal Patterson, Cerner Corp. co-founder, and Jeanne Lillig-Patterson in 2007. The foundation focuses on health care, education and rural communities.

The program is administered by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and is being coordinated through the Kansas National Guard, with Dr. John Alley, a surgeon at KU Health System, called to duty as director of the operational portion of the program, Dr. Kennedy said.

Dr. Stites thanked the Patterson foundation, and noted that there were many who also are helping in the crisis, including the medical students who are volunteering. In addition, he mentioned all health care workers, as well as Riegers, which donated hand sanitizer, and Design Innovation, which made face shields for the KU health system.

Dr. Steve Stites reported 33 positive patients on Friday morning at KU Health System, down slightly from Thursday. Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the KU Health System, said it is still too early to say if they are truly bending the curve.

Dr. Stites said 7 percent of all tests were positive here formerly, and now it is up to 10 percent, showing community transmission. If there is a surge, it could come at the end of April or May, he said.

The way to beat COVID-19, Dr. Stites said, is to stay home, stay 6 feet away from others, don’t touch your face, stay home when sick and cough in the crook of the elbow.

The Kansas COVID-19 website is at
https://govstatus.egov.com/coronavirus.

The UG’s COVID-19 response website is at
www.wycokck.org/COVID-19.

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