Kansas City, Kansas, business leaders on Wednesday asked businesses and individuals in the community to take the “Keep WyCo Well” pledge to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Three local organizations are sponsoring the pledge, which is online at https://www.visitkansascityks.com/keepwycowell/. Businesses that take the pledge can display a decal in their windows, and there also are Keep WyCo Well masks available. This effort was the focus of a news conference Wednesday at the University of Kansas Health System.
Alan Carr, executive director of the Kansas City, Kansas, Convention and Visitors Bureau, said they are trying to engage businesses and individuals to take a pledge to stop the spread of coronavirus. It is a way for businesses to get involved and show customers they’re taking it seriously, and help stop the spread of the virus, he said.
Marcia Harrington, senior director of retention and workforce solutions of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said when the pandemic hit in mid-March, they started making phone calls to local businesses. They made 800 calls and contacted 400 companies, finding out how they were doing, if they were operating, had layoffs or were closed. They asked what they were doing to keep the employees safe.
The overwhelming majority said they were establishing guidelines to keep their employees safe so they could come to work every day and so the business could meet its service and order demands, she said. The guidelines included social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing the workplace and closing doors so that screening could take place.
Daniel Silva, president of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce, which works with 550-plus members, said after COVID-19 hit, they decided to go virtual with communications and events. The made sure they were connecting business owners with decision makers early in the process, he said, making sure they got the right information.
Silva said he was very proud to be part of this collaborative with Wyandotte Economic Development Council, the CVB and the chamber. What makes it unique is that there are probably not that many other communities with such a collaborative.
Silva said they decided to extend services not just to chamber members but to the entire community. It was important to get the right information to business owners on how to reopen safely.
He advised businesses to be as flexible as possible to do the pandemic as best as possible.
“We’re all in this together,” Silva said. “From a business standpoint, we don’t want to and can’t afford to move back to a more restrictive stage where businesses are shutting down.”
They are encouraging not just businesses but also individual community members to take this seriously, he said.
Harrington said the chamber and Wyandotte Economic Development Council wanted to make sure businesses heard about the federal resources that came out initially. Some knew about it, and some didn’t, she said. They referred businesses to the resources, at first the federal funding, and now state and local funding, she said.
“We’ve all learned and are very aware, that keeping businesses healthy, operational and healthy is good for the economy, good for everyone,” Harrington said.
“Everyone needs to take personal responsibility, not only for themselves but for everyone around them,” she said.
Carr said tourism is one of the industries that has been hit really hard by COVID-19.
With prohibitions on gatherings and bringing in groups, there was a large effect on the tourism economy, he said.
With the Keep WyCo Well initiative, they are taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. This communicates that businesses that are opening are doing it safely, following the recommended guidelines, and that Wyandotte County is a safe place to visit, he said.
Carr said during the shutdown, hotels were down to an 18 percent occupancy in Wyandotte County, where they were typically 50 to 60 percent. As restrictions lessened, the numbers have gone up a little, he said. They are currently down about 30 percent from where they were before, he added.
While large meetings and conventions are still not taking place here, people have found ways to travel and enjoy the outdoors, he added.
One of the trends they have seen in the tourism industry, according to surveys, is that people are having a tough time deciding whether it’s safe to do certain things, he said.
Visitors have mentioned masking, and have said they want to see people wearing masks when they visit, he added.
Masking is mandatory in Wyandotte County, and most places are doing a good job with it, but he’s been in a couple places where all the customers aren’t wearing masks, he said.
“We need to take this seriously,” Carr said. He encouraged individuals to take the pledge and wear a mask, to get through the pandemic.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control, said there were 31 patients on Wednesday, an increase from 28 on Tuesday. There were eight patients in the intensive care unit, a decrease from 10 on Tuesday, and four patients on ventilators, the same as Tuesday. HaysMed had 17 patients, with one on a ventilator. There are new admissions and discharges each day, according to Dr. Hawkinson.
Kansas sees increase in COVID-19 case numbers and deaths
Kansas reported increases in COVID-19 case numbers and deaths on Wednesday, according to Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health.
Kansas reported 1,120 additional COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, for a cumulative total of 59,749. There were a cumulative 678 deaths, an increase of 41 deaths since Monday.
Dr. Norman explained some of the increases at a news conference Wednesday.
Twenty-one of the deaths reported were attributed to reconciliation of vital statistics death records, he said.
KDHE routinely reconciles the number of deaths that are reported, he said. The state receives notification of deaths from the local health department or provider and the information goes to the disease surveillance system. When the death certificate is received by KDHE vital statistics office, it is verified, he said.
Also, a second method of verifying is that deaths are regularly reviewed in the death registry system and updated, adding any that were not recorded in the system. The death certificate is the final source of data, he said.
Dr. Norman said Kansas is still in the “red zone” nationally, in the weekly White House report on coronavirus. The state’s rate is 165 per 100,000, the 10th highest rate for the nation, he said. The U.S. average is 93 per 100,000.
The state is the ninth highest in the nation for the percentage of positive tests, putting it in the orange zone, he said.
In per capita testing, Kansas is in the green zone currently, he added.
For COVID-19 deaths, Kansas is in the orange zone with 102 per 100,000 and the national rate is 106 per 100,000, he said.
Dr. Norman said some shifts are being seen in the statewide number of cases, with more cases in smaller and rural communities. Two weeks ago, Wyandotte, Johnson and Sedgwick counties made up about 50 percent of the cases and now, they make up about 35 percent, he said.
Yet cases are still increasing, which means they are increasing in other areas, in rural communities and small towns, he said.
Although not making a projection today, Dr. Norman thought it was possible that there will be a leveling off of the case numbers, then a second wave.
Wyandotte County reported a cumulative total of 6,882 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, and 134 cumulative deaths, according to the UG COVID-19 website.
Free testing continues Thursday
Free COVID-19 testing will be available from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, at Vibrant Health Argentine location, 1428 S. 32nd, Kansas City, Kansas.
The pop-up tests are through the Health Equity Task Force and Vibrant Health.
Free tests also are at the UG Health Department parking lot, 619 Ann Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. They are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is needed.
The tests are for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. Participants should bring something that shows their address or their work place, such as a piece of mail or a work badge.
The pop-up tests and the Health Department 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.
More 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, or call 311.
The KU doctors’ news conference is https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/818045288987872.
The KDHE news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/KDHEnews/videos/341030597193783
The Health Department has released its testing schedule for October, and it is online at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.
The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.
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 information 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 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 CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.