Governor urges residents to stay home for Thanksgiving

There are 22 counties following the governor’s mask order, 36 counties with their own mask orders and 47 others with no county mask order. (Illustration from Gov. Kelly’s social media)

Gov. Laura Kelly today urged Kansas residents to stay home during the Thanksgiving holiday, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

With COVID-19 rates still rising rapidly in Kansas, the governor cautioned residents to stay away from large groups, wear a mask and socially distance.

“I understand how discouraging and frustrating it is to not get together with family members over special holidays like Thanksgiving,” she said in a Wednesday news conference. “I know we all want this to be over. I know we all want to return to some semblance of normal.

“But we cannot return to any semblance of normal until this virus is under control, until we flatten the curve, until a vaccine is available, widely distributed and vaccination rates are significant. Until then, I encourage Kansans to hunker down, have dinner together over a Zoom call, share recipes with loved ones, shop online for good deals on Black Friday rather than shopping in person, prepare dishes for family and friends who may not be the most outstanding chefs and deliver them on their doorstep.

“Kansans are resilient,” Gov. Kelly said. “We have adapted to every curve COVID-19 has thrown at us, and Thanksgiving celebrations should be no different. Staying home is the best way to protect our families and communities, keep our businesses and schools open, and reduce hospitalizations.”

She said if residents are planning a Thanksgiving celebration or attending one, they should read CDC guidance at cdc.gov. If hosts, they should ideally have an outdoor socially distanced meal with a small limited number of guests. If guests, they should bring their own food, utensils and plates.

In Wyandotte County, a health order is in place limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, with masking and social distancing.

Kansas today reported 5,738 additional COVID-19 cases since Monday, for a cumulative total of 147,797. There were an additional 47 deaths statewide since Monday, for a cumulative total of 1,503.

“Unfortunately, the virus continues to spread through our communities at alarming rates,” Gov. Kelly said. Kansas remains in the red zone for cases on the white House coronavirus report, with the 12th highest case rate, also is in the red zone for test positivity with the fourth highest rate, and 92 percent of the counties in Kansas have moderate to high levels of COVID-19 community transmission, she said.

She advised residents not to become desensitized to the COVID-19 numbers. While a 2 percent mortality or casualty rate may sound low, it is about the same rate at the invasion of Normandy, when 150,000 soldiers stormed the beaches, 1,500 were killed and nearly 2,000 missing in action, she said.

The governor also warned that if the COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, the ability to care for COVID-19 patients and other patients as well could be compromised, as hospitalizats ocntinue to fill up.

Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said Kansas hospitals are running out of beds and especially staffed beds, with many operating at full capacity. Some hospitals are shutting down clinics to created increased capacity, and others are freeing up capacity through limiting elective surgeries.

He said the KDHE and the Kansas Department of Emergency Management are working with a contractor to coordinate the movement of patients between hospitals, identify needs, find where the beds are available and work with them to transfer the patients. Often this involves a patient who is at a smaller hospital who needs a higher level of care, such as critical care or intensive care. Patients would be returned to their home communities’ hospital once they improve.

Dr. Norman said front-line workers are facing fatigue with the flood of new cases pushing them to the brink. Many have worked nonstop for eight months, he said, and they are owed a debt of gratitude and appreciation.

“We owe them a commitment to live safely and protect the community from this virus,” Dr. Norman said.

Answering a question about the Leavenworth County Commission voting on Wednesday to opt out of the mask mandate, the governor said she would like every county to adopt a mask mandate; she is glad some cities (Leavenworth and Lansing) in Leavenworth County have passed their own mask mandate; and the county commission can reconsider it at any time.

She said she was very grateful to the county commissions and city councils that have put a mask mandate in place. Twenty-two local governments are following the governor’s mask mandate; 36 jurisdictions have their own county mask order; and 47 jurisdictions have no mask order.

Leavenworth County is the only one in the Greater Kansas City area that does not have a mask mandate. Wyandotte County has had a local mask mandate for around seven months.

Gov. Kelly said the state submitted a vaccination plan to the CDC which has been approved. They are now working to determine what the rollout will be and where, she said. Even though the plan has been approved, they don’t have all the information and data from the federal government yet, she said. That will be added to the plan once they receive it.

COVID-19 cases increase 180 in Wyandotte County

Wyandotte County reported 10,635 total cumulative cases on Wednesday, Nov. 25, an increase of 180 cases since Tuesday, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were 177 total deaths, no change since Tuesday.

At the University of Kansas Health System, there were 91 active COVID-19 patients on Wednesday morning , down two from Tuesday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical direction of infection prevention and control. Three deaths were reported. There were 47 patients in the intensive care unit, an increase of three since Tueday, and 21 patients on ventilators, a decrease of two from Tuesday. In addition, 46 other COVID-19 patients were still hospitalized but were out of the acute infection phase, an increase of one from Tuesday. There were a total of 137 COVID-19 patients, a decrease of one since Tuesday.

HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, had 37 total COVID-19 inpatients, with four of them in the recovery phase, a decrease from 40 on Tuesday.

The Mid-America Regional Council KC Region COVID-19 Resource Hub reported 85,704 total cumulative COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, an increase of 1,440 cases since Tuesday. The region covers a nine-county area. There were 168 average new daily hospitalizations, a decrease of one since Tuesday. The average daily new deaths were 10, which is trending up. The numbers of those in the intensive care unit and on ventilators also is increasing in the Greater Kansas City area.

There were 12,765,039 cases in the United States on Wednesday, and a total of 262,090 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.

At the KU Health System news conference on Wednesday morning, Dr. Doug GIrod, KU chancellor, discussed COVID-19 and plans for the next semester. After going home for the Thanksgiving break, students will not return until next year. The students may be taking an at-home COVID-19 test before returning in the spring. The spring semester will start a week later and there will be no spring break. KU officials said the testing and masking program on campus has been successful.

As the holidays may be spreader events, all KU sports events, including basketball, will not have fans present for the first few weeks of December.

The doctors also discussed quarantining at home when a college student returns for Thanksgiving.

COVID-19 testing available Monday

Free COVID-19 testing by the UG Health Department will be available on Monday, Nov. 30. There will be no UG Health Department testing on Thursday and Friday of this week, because of the holiday. For more information, visit https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/10092020_newtestingsitewyco.pdf.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/GovLauraKelly/videos/195263332136278.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/143021730490607.

The new Wyandotte County health order with a limit of 10 persons to a gathering, and a closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars, with other new restrictions, is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/11162020localhealthorderexecuted.pdf.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at https://bao.arcgis.com/covid-19/jhu/county/20209.html.

The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

COVID-19 patient count still high at KU Health System

Although there was a slight drop of COVID-19 patients on Tuesday morning at The University of Kansas Health System, the total was still high at 138.

There were 93 active COVID-19 inpatients at the hospital, a decrease from 100 on Monday, with 44 patients in the intensive care unit, down from 46 Monday, and 23 patients on ventilators, down from 26 Monday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. There were 45 other patients who were still hospitalized because of COVID-19 but are considered to be in the recovery phase, up from 39 on Monday. The total of 138 is down from 139 on Monday.

At the KU Health System news conference on Tuesday morning, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas discussed enforcement of the new requirements limiting gatherings to 10 persons, the earlier closing times, and other health measures.

There have recently been reports about plans to legally challenge some of the new requirements, but Mayor Lucas said he is confident they will survive legal challenges.

Lucas said there was heavy enforcement of the health orders in Kansas City, Missouri, through the agency that oversees the liquor laws. This weekend they were out enforceing the mandates and plan to be out again on Thanksgiving, looking for those who are having large parties, he said.

Mayor Lucas also said the city is also trying to help small businesses, with $3 million in small business grants.

He said he would like to see Congress pass a stimulus support for local governments, hospitals and others before the end of this Congressional session and before the inauguration of the next president. It cannot wait, he said.

Taking preventive steps such as wearing a mask, distancing and avoiding large crowds can make a difference, he said.

Mayor Lucas said he and the other leaders of the different cities and counties in the Greater Kansas City area have tried to coordinate their health orders. While there are some, such as Johnson County, that didn’t adopt the same curfews on restaurants and bars, they still are all giving consistent advice about wearing masks, even if some don’t require it, he said. He plans to continue the conversation with the other communities and the governor’s office.

Kansas City, Missouri, will not be requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for all its staff, but they may be able to offer some incentives for workers who decide to get the vaccine, he said.

He also said the city plans to educate people about the effectiveness of wearing a mask, distancing and taking other health measures.

Dr. Hawkinson said it’s important to do the health measures in combination, mask wearing plus social distancing plus hand washing and avoiding crowds, and that the health measures work together to stop the spread of the disease.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said people are dying from COVID-19 and some of the survivors have long-term or lifetime problems.

It hurts everyone when one group decides not to follow the rules, Dr. Stites said. The coronavirus does not discriminate or follow borders and if people follow the pillars of infection control they can win, he said. He also said it shows love when people wear a mask this Thanksgiving.

Wyandotte County reported 10,455 total COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, Nov. 24, an increase of 117 cases since Monday, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were 177 deaths.

The Mid-America Regional Council’s KC Region COVID-19 dashboard reported the Greater Kansas City area, a nine-county area, had 84,264 cases on Tuesday, an increase of 1,444 cases since Monday. There were 17 newly reported deaths in the nine-county area, The daily average of new hospitalizations was 169, an increase since Monday.

There were 12,597,330 cases in the United States on Tuesday, and a total of 259,962 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.

Free COVID-19 testing available on Wednesday

Free COVID-19 testing will be available from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25, at Faith Deliverance Family Worship Center, 3043 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

The pop-up test is through Vibrant Health and the Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force.

The Unified Government Health Department has moved its COVID-19 testing 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. The test site will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Tests are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. The tests are now saliva COVID-19 tests.

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. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.

For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/10092020_newtestingsitewyco.pdf.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/421017808924638.

The new Wyandotte County health order with a limit of 10 persons to a gathering, and a closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars, with other new restrictions, is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/11162020localhealthorderexecuted.pdf.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at https://bao.arcgis.com/covid-19/jhu/county/20209.html.

The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

Number of acute COVID-19 patients jumps to 100 at KU hospital

One hundred active COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Monday morning at the University of Kansas Health System, up from 78 on Friday.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control, said that of the 100 active patients in the hospital, which was an increase from 78 on Friday, there were 46 patients in the intensive care unit, an increase from 34 on Friday. Twenty-six of the ICU patients were on ventilators, up from 21 Friday. An additional 39 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized but were out of the acute infection phase, down from 47 on Friday. There also were a few COVID-19 deaths reported on the weekend at the hospital.

HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 39 total COVID-19 patients, including three in the recovery phase, an increase from 35 on Friday.

According to the doctors, the high number of hospitalizations followed the surge in community cases in the past few weeks.

Doctors are hoping that mask orders and new restrictions in Kansas will slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the numbers of cases at the hospitals.

Local governments in the Kansas City area have issued new restrictions last week. Wyandotte County and Jackson County, Missouri, added a closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars, and a limit on gatherings of 10 persons. They already had a mask order and a social distancing order in effect here.

Mask-wearing and the new restrictions have the backing of local business groups including the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

Last week, the governor announced a new mask mandate for the state. On Monday, a coalition of the Kansas Hospital Association, Kansas Chamber, Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Medical Society announced a public awareness campaign to urge residents to avoid large gatherings, use face coverings, distance and other health measures.

Alvey: ‘The virus is the enemy’

Mayor David Alvey, speaking at the Monday news conference, said there has been discussion about whether there needs to be governmental control or personal responsibility to handle the virus.

“I suggest it’s both,” he said. “Each one of us, if we would just simply comply with the mask mandate, follow protocols of infection control as you suggested, maintain social distancing, avoid large gatherings, we could simply turn the tide on this.”

As long as they don’t do this, they’re going to continue to face this sort of thing, he said.

Wyandotte County’s health order includes penalties of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail that could be, but are not often, enforced for violations.

“It’s too bad that people would expect us to solve this problem by enforcement,” Alvey said. “There’s not enough personnel to enforce everyone wearing the mask. That is each person’s responsibility to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings.”

If they get a report of an event where people gathered in large numbers and did not wear a mask, the police will respond and have a conversation with them to remind them of the health order, and tell them they need to comply, he said.

“We try to avoid fines and so forth,” he said. “Let’s hope we don’t have to do that.”

There are some who are still struggling with the conflict of resisting the fact the virus is here and therefore are resisting the measures that were taken, he said.

Mayor Alvey said he had significant concerns about people who owned bars when a new restriction was put in place setting the closing time at 10 p.m., yet he also heard from many who encouraged him to take this action.

Wyandotte County was following the advice of health officers and chief medical officers in setting an earlier closing time, who felt that the longer time that people were in bars and restaurants, the more likely they were to have their masks off and spread the virus. Jackson County also followed the “Core 4” health officials group in the metro area, but the Johnson County Commission did not, and set their closing hour at midnight.

“There is still this resistance to the fact that we have to suffer this,” Alvey said. “As a nation, we’re not used to suffering.

“We think suffering itself is evil when in fact it’s something that causes the suffering is evil. The virus itself is the enemy,” he said.

“Our fellow citizen is not the enemy,” he said. “The virus is the enemy; let’s take the enemy as the enemy, and do what we need to do to stop it.”

There is a lot of resistance and anger, but people also are tired, Mayor Alvey said. People are getting upset when others are not complying, and that’s only going to increase, he said.

Also, the mayor said the latest he has heard about another stimulus package was that Senate leaders were willing to discuss the matter, with one side favoring trillions in relief, and another wanting to limit the amount to under 500 billion dollars.

“We do need to provide some wind to the sails of our small business,” he said. Until everyone is comfortable going out, they’ll continue to constrict their economic activity, he added. Until the vaccine is available, he’s not sure that people will go out much. There are safe ways to conduct business, as long as people follow the rules of infection control, he said.

Wyandotte County reported 79 additional COVID-19 cases on Monday, for a cumulative total of 10,338, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative 178 deaths, an increase of one since Sunday.

The MARC Kansas City Region COVID-19 dashboard reported on Monday 82,820 total COVID-19 cases for the nine-county area and 1,032 total deaths. The seven-day average of cases per day was up, as well as the average daily news deaths. Hospitalization rates were trending down. Ventilator rates were up.

Kansas reported an additional 7,526 COVID-19 cases from Friday to Monday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics, for a cumulative total of 142,059. There were 1,456 cumulative deaths, an increase of 46 deaths since Friday.

“We are on fire in the Midwest,” Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said at the news conference. About a third of the COVID-19 patients at KU Health System are outside the Kansas City area, and the virus is spreading in rural America.

The surge of COVID-19 patients may make it harder for non-COVID-19 patients to receive medical care, he said. Hospital could soon run out of doctors and nurses who have been trained to take care of intensive care unit patients.

One way to put out that fire is to follow the rules of infection control, he said, including wearing masks, socially distancing, washing hands, not gathering in large groups and staying home when sick.

“We have this shared humanity where we’re all in things together, but for some reason we want to fight simple logic and truth. It’s odd to me because it’s a fool’s wisdom that takes us on a journey that says masks don’t work when there is so much evidence that proves that they do,” Dr. Stites said.

Vaccines discussed

The doctors also discussed news reports that showed AstraZeneca’s vaccine’s effectiveness rate was 90 percent in the late stage trials in Brazil, South Korea and England. The vaccine is being tested at the KU Medical Center and also at many locations in different countries. The AstraZeneca vaccine will not need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures.

Dr. Stites said the vaccine trial needs volunteers here. Volunteers are especially needed from minorities.

Dr. Hawkinson said the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a different vehicle to deliver the vaccine.

“We all are waiting for the final safety data but they all are looking safe at this point,” he said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine may be better for countries without as much infrastructure, as it will be easier to ship and to store, according to the doctors.

Dr. Stites said preliminary data of the vaccines seems to indicate that the lower doses are more effective than higher doses, but they will be waiting for final data.

Free COVID-19 testing available on Tuesday

Free COVID-19 testing will be available from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, at All Saints parish, 811 Vermont Ave., Kansas, City, Kansas.

The pop-up test is through Vibrant Health and the Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force.

The Unified Government Health Department has moved its COVID-19 testing 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. The test site will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.


Tests are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. The tests are now saliva COVID-19 tests.

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. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.

For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/10092020_newtestingsitewyco.pdf.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/205851577644412.

The new Wyandotte County health order with a limit of 10 persons to a gathering, and a closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars, with other new restrictions, is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/11162020localhealthorderexecuted.pdf.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at https://bao.arcgis.com/covid-19/jhu/county/20209.html.

The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.