Smoke from wildfires could have an effect on COVID-19 patients and those with lung conditions

Wyandotte County reported an additional 47 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, for a cumulative total of 6,555, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths reported Saturday; the cumulative total was 133. (From the UG COVID-19 webpage)

People who have shortness of breath with COVID-19 potentially could be affected by smoke in the atmosphere, and forecasters say there is a possibility that smoke could reach the surface on Monday in the Kansas City area.

At a University of Kansas Health System news conference on Friday, Sept. 18, doctors discussed the haziness in the skies caused by wildfires in the western United States. At that time the smoke was in the upper atmosphere here, not close to the ground.

The smoke itself isn’t making people more susceptible to getting COVID-19, and COVID-19 doesn’t survive in the blowing smoke, but there are some other health concerns with the smoke that health officials are discussing.

So far, the smoke hasn’t affected the surface atmosphere much in the Kansas City area, but that could change on Monday when some surface-based smoke could move into the area, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

People who are affected by the smoke are most likely to have underlying problems such as asthma, according to Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System.

In answer to a question, Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of medical prevention and control at KU Health System, said the coronavirus itself is not being carried over several states in the smoke. Also, the smoke doesn’t make people more likely to get COVID-19, he said.

Amanda Gartner, RN, director of quality and safety at the KU Health System, said the smoke is affecting respiratory and allergy-type symptoms. Hays, Kansas, health care personnel recently were reporting more allergies and sneezing with the smoky skies.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued some guidance on dealing with the smoke in the atmosphere.

While most of the smoke remains high in the atmosphere, there are times when it is being observed at the surface and affecting air quality, according to the KDHE. Some of the health problems caused by the smoke include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis.

Those who have respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and elderly may experience worse symptoms, according to the KDHE.

The KDHE recommended, on days when particulate matter is present in the community, that healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise. People with respiratory illness or heart-related illness should remain indoors, KDHE said.

People who are experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms, in particular respiratory or heart-related symptoms, who are currently infected or recently recovered, should stay indoors, according to KDHE.

In addition, KDHE recommended keeping indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running the air conditioners with air filters; and keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Those who have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue should contact their doctors, according to the KDHE.

Current air quality across the U.S. can be viewed online at https://fire.airnow.gov/.

Wyandotte County reported an additional 47 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, for a cumulative total of 6,555, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths reported Saturday; the cumulative total was 133.

The KU doctors’ news conference is online at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/726939051218838.

Some information about the possibility of smoke in the air on Monday is at https://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=EAX&issuedby=EAX&product=AFD&format=CI&version=6&glossary=1.

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


The Unified Government COVID-19 hub outbreak map at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.

To see an NEA list of schools that have had COVID-19 cases, visit https://app.smartsheet.com/b/publish?EQBCT=aa3f2ede7cb2415db943fdaf45866d2f.


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

The Unified Government Health Department is collecting input on people’s experiences getting tested for COVID-19 in Wyandotte County. The survey is on the UG website at https://us.openforms.com/Form/ea97a450-3d74-4d86-8d1f-6e340d55cf7c.


The UG Health Department new school and sports guidance is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/09042020fallsportsrecommendations.pdf.


A previous UG sports order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/08132020localhealthofficerorderregardingsports.pdf.


The Wyandotte County school start order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask order and is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. For more information, residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information or call 311 for more information.


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


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

COVID-19 test rules change in Wyandotte County to include those without symptoms

On Friday afternoon, Wyandotte County reported a cumulative total of 6,508 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 43 from Thursday, according to the UG COVID-19 website. There was no increase in deaths reported from Thursday, and the total is 133. (From UG COVID-19 website)
The seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County has shown a downward trend recently. (From UG COVID-19 website)
New rules have been issued for testing at the UG Health Department, starting Monday. People without symptoms now may be tested. (From UG Health Department information)

Starting Monday, Sept. 21, Wyandotte County will begin COVID-19 testing for people who don’t have symptoms, as well as those who have symptoms, according to an announcement today from the Unified Government Health Department.

Tests at the Health Department parking lot at 6th and Ann and also at pop-up testing sites through Vibrant and Swope Health will now be available to those who do not have symptoms, expanding eligibility, the spokesman said.

Previously, only those who had symptoms or those who had an exposure to a known COVID-19 case were tested here.

People who don’t have symptoms may have COVID-19, according to health officials, and may be spreading it without knowing it. Some may be infectious for a few days before symptoms start.

Those tested at the Health Department still will have to be residents of Wyandotte County or people who work in Wyandotte County, Friesen said.

Not as many people have been going in for testing recently at the Health Department and pop-up sites, said Janell Friesen, public information officer. They have reached a point where they had adequate staff and resources to offer it to nonsymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms, she said.

Additional testing of nonsymptomatic people, the wider population, has been recommended at the national and state levels recently, and $52.7 million in the third round of CARES Act funding was approved Sept. 17 by the State Finance Council for COVID-19 testing throughout the state.

The Health Department worked with Vibrant Health, Swope Health and the Wyandotte County Health Equity Task Force to adjust testing eligibility, according to the Health Department.

“Asymptomatic testing is a crucial step toward controlling the spread of COVID-19. We’re happy to now offer this critical service to our community,” said Dr. Kelly Kreisler, chief medical officer for Vibrant Health.

Dr. Jennifer Frost, interim chief medical officer with Swope Health, said, “The only way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 is by separating people who are infected from those who are not. Because many people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, we need to expand testing to the asymptomatic population.”

“We’ve seen our county’s testing numbers going down, but we still are still one of the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 in the metro. This is a major step forward in our ability to test more members of our Wyandotte County community and get a clearer picture of where and how the virus is spreading,” said Juliann Van Liew, director of the Unified Government Public Health Department. “We know that people can still be infectious even if they don’t have symptoms or their symptoms haven’t started yet. If we can identify people who are asymptomatic but still carrying the virus, we can more effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in Wyandotte County and beyond.”

The change was in response to the most recent testing numbers here as well as current data on asymptomatic spread of the virus, according to the Health Department.

Appointments are not needed to get tested at the Health Department and pop-up clinics, Friesen said. Walk-ins are available.

For those who have symptoms, the Health Department suggests they get tested within 48 hours of the symptoms, she said.

For people who have been exposed to a COVID-19 case but do not have symptoms, it could ake several days for COVID-19 to show up on the test. They should be tested ideally from seven to nine days after being exposed, Friesen said, then should go home and finish their quarantine. COVID-19 may show up anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure, she added.

At the present, they don’t know who will show up to be tested, she added. There may be some families coming through at the beginning of the school year or activities, she said. There also might be people who are getting ready to travel somewhere and want to be tested first.

There may be some businesses who want to send employees in for testing, and Friesen recommended they look at the COVID-19 business town hall meeting video from earlier this month to get a sense of guidelines. The video is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information. Next week, they plan to go over the guidance specific to businesses, she said.

At the University of Kansas campus, it was reported that the positivity rate was 2 to 3 percent when they tested every student entering the university this fall, but then when they stopped testing everyone and started testing the sick and those who were exposed to COVID-19, the rate went up to around 10 percent.

Friesen said although they do not know for certain, it is a possibility that the local positivity rate may decline if there are more people coming in to get tested who are asymptomatic. They will continue to track the rates, she said. The positivity rate was listed at 17.6 percent on the UG COVID-19 website on Friday, meaning that the rate is 17.6 positive out of 100 of those who tested in Wyandotte County. The positivity rate is often used when schools consider whether they can reopen or for other community reopening criteria.

The Health Department is using PCR swab testing at this time, and is also looking at other testing possibilities for the future, she said. They want to be sure there are solid, reliable results, before making any changes, she said.

The test result wait time will vary, depending on where the test is, what lab is running it and if there was a huge influx of tests coming in at the same time at the lab, she said. Currently the wait time is usually within a couple of days at the Health Department, she said.

A few Saturdays were added recently to the pop-up test schedule for Vibrant Health and Swope Health, she said. Testing will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Faith Deliverance Family Worship Center, 3043 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. Testing has also been added for Saturday, Sept. 26, at another pop-up location. Friesen said testing also has been added from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays at the Vibrant Health Argentine location.

Testing is one of the best tools they have to reduce the spread of COVID-19. After a person tests positive, the person is in quarantine while the virus is active, and contacts are traced to stop the spread in the community. Anyone who has close contact to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 while it is active should go into quarantine for 14 days, Friesen said. Even if the contact tests negative, they should still complete the 14-day quarantine.

On Friday afternoon, Wyandotte County reported a cumulative total of 6,508 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 43 from Thursday, according to the UG COVID-19 website. There was no increase in deaths reported from Thursday, and the total is 133.

For more information, visit https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/09182020_asymptomatictestinginwyco.pdf.

Check with the UG’s website, Health Department Facebook page or call 311 to see if there are any changes in the testing schedule. Information about testing is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.


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

Mask-wearing makes a difference, doctor says

Wyandotte County reported an additional 39 COVID-19 cases on Thursday afternoon, for a cumulative total of 6,465, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths since Wednesday, for a cumulative total of 133. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)

Doctors talked about the importance of mask-wearing and distancing at Thursday’s news conference at the University of Kansas Health System news conference.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control, said the evidence is clear that masks and distancing make a difference.

Also participating in the news conference were executives and health officers from small hospitals in Kansas towns.

Beth Worden, chief nursing officer at McPherson Hospital, mentioned how important it was to be a good role model and wear a mask. When she goes to the grocery store, she wants to have a mask on, she said.

“People look at us and say, ‘That’s what we should be doing,’” she said.

Dr. Hawkinson said currently, the treatments being used for COVID-19 include remdesivir and antivirals. So far there is not an oral medication like Tamiflu on the market for COVID-19, although some companies are looking at those types of antivirals.

Convalescent plasma is being used in emergency use authorization, he said. There are still questions about when the person receives the best benefits are from it.

There are 20 or more vaccine studies going on, that can be looked at in the future, he said.

Immuno-suppressant drugs that decrease the immune dysregulation are already marketed for other conditions and are under trials for COVID-19, he said.

In addition, anticoagulants or blood thinners and dexamethasone are being used to treat COVID-19, he said.

Dr. Hawkinson said 20 acute COVID-19 patients were hospitalized on Thursday morning, the same as on Wednesday. Five were in the intensive care unit, no change from Wednesday, and two were on ventilators, an increase of one since Wednesday. Four other COVID-19 patients who are no longer infectious are still on ventilators. In addition, 35 other COVID-19 patients were still hospitalized, and were no longer in the acute stage, according to Dr. Hawkinson, which was an increase from 32 on Wednesday.

Wyandotte County reported an additional 39 COVID-19 cases on Thursday afternoon, for a cumulative total of 6,465, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage. There were no additional deaths since Wednesday, for a cumulative total of 133.

Testing offered

Free COVID-19 testing is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, at the Health Department parking lot, 6th and Ann, Kansas City, Kansas, weather permitting.

Check with the UG’s website, Health Department Facebook page or call 311 to see if there are any changes in the schedule. Information about testing is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/636332230358613.

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

The Unified Government COVID-19 hub outbreak map at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.

To see an NEA list of schools that have had COVID-19 cases, visit https://app.smartsheet.com/b/publish?EQBCT=aa3f2ede7cb2415db943fdaf45866d2f.

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


The Unified Government Health Department is collecting input on people’s experiences getting tested for COVID-19 in Wyandotte County. The survey is on the UG website at https://us.openforms.com/Form/ea97a450-3d74-4d86-8d1f-6e340d55cf7c.

The UG Health Department new school and sports guidance is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/09042020fallsportsrecommendations.pdf.

A previous UG sports order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/08132020localhealthofficerorderregardingsports.pdf.

The Wyandotte County school start order is online at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask order and is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. For more information, residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information or call 311 for more information.

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

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