Wednesday morning figures from the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage showed 458 cases, up 32 cases from Tuesday morning. (From UG COVID-19 website) A graph on the UG COVID-19 website on Wednesday morning showed positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County. (From UG COVID-19 website)
There was an increase of 32 cases today in the positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage.
Wyandotte County, which has stepped up COVID-19 testing this week, is reporting 458 positive COVID-19 cases at 10:55 a.m. Wednesday, April 22. Wyandotte County reported 426 positive cases at 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, April 21.
The number of deaths increased from 44 reported early Tuesday to 45 reported Wednesday in Wyandotte County, according to the UG’s COVID-19 webpage.
Some area hospitals are seeing a decline in the number of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized, according to doctors participating in a University of Kansas Health System news conference on Wednesday morning.
The KU Health System on Wednesday morning had 24 COVID-19 patients, including 11 in the intensive care unit, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System. The total number is down from 26 on Tuesday. There were eight patients in ICU on Tuesday. They were awaiting results on another 20-21 patients, he said.
Doctors are dealing with changing information.
In the past, doctors have told people who were sick in January that it was not COVID-19, since the coronavirus was not reported yet in America, Dr. Hawkinson said. Recently, some new information is coming from California that stated COVID-19 might have been there in February, before it was in the state of Washington.
“The way it spreads is very insidious,” Dr. Hawkinson said. “There are still a lot of questions to be answered.”
Originally, doctors thought each person with the virus could infect two people, but now they think it is closer to five, he said.
“This is why we are really stressing the physical distancing for all this, to really stop the spread,” he said.
Some other hospitals in the Kansas City area have been experiencing declines in the numbers of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.
Truman Medical Center reported four persons with COVID-19 currently in the hospital, with two in the ICU, according to Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer. The peak was 12 last Tuesday, he said. There are 11 patients pending testing in the hospital currently.
About 32 COVID-19 patients have been discharged to date at Truman, and they celebrate those discharges, he said. Truman has expanded its testing recently in mobile sites for Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackson County residents. He said four to five times as many African-American residents test positive for COVID-19 as white residents. He added that is one of the reasons they decided to take testing into the community.
Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer of Liberty Hospital, said the hospital currently has two COVID-19 inpatients. There are four that are awaiting test results, he said. The numbers have been flat over the past week or two, he added. The hospital started drive-through testing over a month ago, he said.
There have been more than 2,000 telehealth visits, he said. Five health care workers out of 1,000 workers have tested positive, and they were pretty much community onset, he said.
Dr. Adiga said it was important to keep social distancing in place because some studies have shown there were two patients with no symptoms or mild symptoms in the general population for every patient who sought health care.
Dr. Larry Botts, chief medical officer at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, said the hospital currently has 11 positive COVID-19 patients, with no patients awaiting test results. They are now doing in-house testing, he said. Out of the 11 patients, there are two on ventilators, he said.
There has been a steady decrease in COVID-19 patient numbers since 26 patients on April 6, he said. There have been more than 100 discharges, and they celebrate those, he said.
AdventHealth is participating in a Mayo Clinic trial using convalescent plasma from donations to the Community Blood Center, he said. Three patients have been treated so far with plasma from recovered coronavirus patients. Dr. Botts said results from the national study will be important in the future.
To see the KU Health System news conference, visit https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/532109057731828/.
The UG’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
The Kansas COVID-19 resource page is at https://govstatus.egov.com/coronavirus.
UG Health Department has longer testing hours, accepts walk-ins
The UG COVID-19 website reported 431 cases and 45 total deaths in Wyandotte County on Tuesday. (From UG COVID-19 website) One more death was reported April 21 at the RIverbend Post-Acute Rehabilitation facility in Kansas City, Kansas, bringing the total number of deaths to 25. (UG Health Department graphic)
The Unified Government Health Department has expanded its COVID-19 testing, and Wyandotte County residents who have symptoms may drive through or walk in from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 619 Ann Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.
No appointment is necessary, according to the health department.
Today the UG COVID-19 webpage at 4:50 p.m. reported 431 positive cases and 45 COVID-19 related deaths in Wyandotte County. There were 48 hospitalizations reported, with 102 recoveries. It was an increase of one death since Monday evening.
There was one additional death today, at the Riverbend Post-Acute Rehabilitation facility, bringing the number of deaths there to 25, according to the Health Department. Riverbend makes up 55 percent of the Wyandotte County COVID-19 deaths and 23 percent of the state of Kansas COVID-19 deaths.
Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer for the health department, said expanded testing here was important.
“Ramping up testing capacity in Wyandotte means we will get a clearer picture of what we are dealing with,” Dr. Corriveau said in a news release.
“We wanted to remove barriers to testing, like removing the need for an appointment and opening up testing criteria, allowing more people to access testing.
“More testing will not only give community members information to protect their loved ones and neighbors – it will also help us see where and how COVID-19 is spreading,” she said. “This is critical information to help us stop the spread of this disease in our community.”
According to the health department, testing is available, at no charge, for Wyandotte County residents who have experienced any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within the past 48 hours.
Symptoms may include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath-difficulty breathing, body aches, sore throat, sudden lack of sense of taste or smell, nausea, diarrhea and tiredness.
Testing is provided regardless of immigration status, health coverage or ability to pay, according to the health department.
Residents who prefer to set up an appointment may confidentially report their symptoms online at wycokck.org/COVID-19 or by calling 3-1-1. Someone from the Health Department will follow up to set up a testing appointment and provide further guidance.
by Corinne Boyer, Kansas News Service
Garden City, Kansas — The continuing spread of COVID-19 among workers who slaughter livestock and package meat poses a growing threat to keeping the industry’s plants in operation.
Already, the coronavirus temporarily shut down a pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a beefpacking facility in Greeley, Colorado.
Now in the cattle slaughterhouses of southwest Kansas, both National Beef Packing Co. and Cargill Inc. have confirmed cases of the coronavirus among workers at their plants in Dodge City and Liberal.
Tyson Foods Inc. has not publicly confirmed the number of cases or which of its locations have the virus. In an email, a spokeswoman for Finney County government declined to say whether there are confirmed cases at the plant — the county’s largest employer.
As the global pandemic reaches deeper into small cities on the Great Plains where meatpacking is concentrated — the number of COVID-19 cases in Ford County went from 17 to 107 in the last week — the industry could face a stall. There were 187 positive cases in Ford County on Tuesday.
In the meantime, unions have begun pressing for better coronavirus protections inside plants where workers stand-side-by side to cut meat from carcases. And while plants have implemented extra sanitation shifts and social distancing efforts, it’s not always possible for workers to stand 6 feet apart.
Martin Rosas is president of the United Food & Commercial Workers District Union Local 2, which represents 9,000 meatpacking and food processing workers in Kansas. He said workers are anxious.
“One of the biggest concerns that our members have … is social distancing while their lunch time and break times occur” he said.
National Beef and Cargill have met the union’s requests to stagger break times and have provided more space and barriers to employees during breaks.
Rosas said the union wants meatpacking plants to slow down production lines for workers’ safety.
“Because if their line hasn’t been slowed down yet, that’s going to create another safety hazard,” Rosas said. “If … people try to change their masks and try to grab a hold of their product, it makes it difficult.”
On April 8, National Beef announced the first positive case at its Dodge City plant.
On April 11, the company confirmed COVID-19 cases among its workers, but it did not specify the number of cases at its Liberal location.
“These employees have not been in our Liberal facility for several days and are now in quarantine at home for time required for a full recovery,” the statement said.
On April 16, Keith Welty with National Beef said the company is not confirming specific numbers of cases but said employees have tested positive in Dodge City. Now that plant has moved its scheduled cleaning up by a week. From April 16 through the 21, the plant will shut down, and Welty said that will stop beef production for three days.
The plant is using that time to install stainless steel partitions between workers on the production floor. Heated tents have been set up outside for lunch breaks and National Beef has said it has provided face masks and face shields for workers.
Daniel Sullivan, a Cargill spokesman, confirmed the company’s Dodge City location has confirmed positive cases, but did not specify how many.
“Our priority is limiting the spread of the virus where we can,” Sullivan said. “We are working with local health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed.”
Sullivan said Cargill is also taking workers’ temperatures, providing face coverings and practicing social distancing where possible.
Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston said the company is checking employees’ temperatures and supplying face coverings, has installed plastic dividers and is practicing social distancing.
In the meantime, the union asked Gov. Laura Kelly to issue an executive order that would mandate meatpacking plants and grocery stores abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines to keep workers safe. Rosas said the governor hasn’t replied.
Glynn Tonsor, a professor in the department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University, estimates that southwest Kansas plants account for about 25 to 30% of the country’s beef production.
“If we have more than three of the large plants down for more than a week, then you start having a bigger problem of cattle stacking up,” he said.
As of mid-April, Tonsor said he doesn’t think the nation is on the brink of a meat shortage.
“Mainly because we haven’t had multiple plants with that (coronavirus) challenge yet,” he said.
Tyson has shut down its Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant, Croston said in an email. She added that the company has “scaled back production” at its Finney County plant.
“We’re beginning to experience varying levels of production at some locations,” she said. “Some is planned due to additional worker safety precautions, but some is occurring because of absenteeism.”
Nicole’s fiance works at National Beef. She’s raising two young children with compromised immune systems. The Kansas News Service is only using her middle name because she fears that talking publicly could create problems for her fiance at work.
He’s the family’s only source of income, and his potential exposure to a virus at work is a source of anxiety for the family.
“He gets right into the shower to wash off any bacteria that he possibly can,” she said. “It’s very stressful because he is scared to hold or touch the kids just in case he may have come into contact with anybody or anything.”
Corinne Boyer covers western Kansas for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @Corinne_Boyer or email cboyer (at) hppr (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at https://www.hppr.org/post/kansas-meatpacking-plants-have-coronavirus-cases-and-stay-open-amid-safety-concerns.