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County, state planning for coronavirus
Officials urge calm, offer resources
governor kelly coronavirus
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly addresses a news conference Wednesday in Topeka. She urged preparedness to deal with the coronavirus.

When it comes to the spread of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus, Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider urges folks to remain calm, assuring them steps are being taken locally should it rear its ugly head here.

“The Barton County Health Department is working with its community partners in establishing action plans in the event that a positive COVID-19 case presents,” she said. “We have communication lines open to Kansas Department of Health and Environment and they will provide technical assistance when necessary.”

The situation can change from minute to minute and the partners have been working on emergency preparedness precautions and reviewing and re-evaluating the emergency plans, she said. “Trust in the efforts of our medical community as they are working on ways to make sure that our Community has every available resource available to them.”

Her comments came as KDHE Wednesday announced the launch of the agency’s online resource center for Kansans to learn more about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus, It is a resource to get answers to commonly asked questions about the virus and review other helpful information in an effort correct misinformation about the virus.

“The best thing Kansans can do is be informed,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said. “COVID-19 is a new virus and, as a result, many people have questions about it and how to keep their families safe. The COVID-19 resource center will provide a centralized location for Kansans to go to learn the most up-to-date information.”

“I agree with Dr. Lee Norman, the best thing for us to do is stay educated on the updates, make sure they are from reliable sources, and be aware of our surroundings,” Schneider said. “At this time, our Barton County Community should think about those community members that may be elderly or have underlying health issues. This population appears to be the most vulnerable to this virus and have the worst outcomes.”

Good handwashing, avoiding crowded areas, getting enough sleep, plenty of rest, a nutritious diet, and staying home when you are ill is the best prevention available, she said. It is best to manage mild symptoms at home and if they become more severe, then inform health care providers and seek medical treatment.

“KDHE is working on providing localities testing kits in the event that we may need them,” she said. “We ask that if you are ill, be descriptive with your symptoms so that our first responders and our front line staff are aware of your needs.”


Looking nationally

“KDHE is working closely with local and federal authorities to ensure that every effort is made to keep Kansans safe and healthy,” Norman said. “In addition to educating yourself about the virus, the public can also take precautions to prevent the spread of it by doing simple things like washing your hands, practicing good hygiene techniques and staying home if you’re sick. This is the best defense to COVID-19.”

The 2019 novel coronavirus infections were initially diagnosed in Wuhan City, China and have now been reported in 60 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. KDHE, along with its community partners, continue to investigate this illness. 

If you have recently traveled to areas including China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea and have developed fever with lower respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel or have had contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. 

For more information about COVID-19, visit KDHE’s website and Frequently Asked Questions at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

The public can visit www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus to learn more about the virus. The site contains detailed information, answers to frequently asked questions and updated videos from Secretary Norman. Information will also be shared on KDHE’s social media channels. 


No confirmed COVID-19 in Kansas; Kelly ensures state is ready

Governor Kelly, Secretary Norman, General Tafanelli urge preparedness


TOPEKA — Governor Laura Kelly, along with Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman and Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Wednesday outlined a robust, comprehensive preparedness plan for COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus.

“There are no confirmed cases in Kansas, but we are prepared,” Kelly said. “Currently, in Kansas, the overall risk of the virus is low, but that does not mean we can rest easy. We take this situation seriously. We can and will remain ready to respond swiftly and effectively, should the virus spread to Kansas.”

The Kelly administration is working closely with federal, state and local partners to maintain awareness of national and international trends related to the virus. KDHE currently is working on Kansas-specific guidance, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help local communities continue their preparedness efforts. 

Under Governor Kelly’s direction, KDHE and KDEM are:

• In constant communication with local hospitals and health departments, coordinating with local, state and federal public health partners; 

• Preparing for emergency management situations on a regular basis, with staff who have decades of experience in developing responses and preventative measures for any situation;

• Continuing to work with federal, state and local partners to maintain awareness of national and international COVID-19 trends and strategies.

“The health and safety of every Kansan is our top priority and we are utilizing every tool at our disposal to continue monitoring the situation and ensure that we are ready to respond should that be necessary,” Kelly said. “The best way to protect yourself, your family and your friends against contracting the virus is to use good hygiene practices like washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and stay home if you’re not feeling well. It’s simple, but effective.”

Kansas has tested a few suspected cases of coronavirus, with no positive results as of today. 

“Our KDHE lab now has the capability to test for cases of COVID-19, which will expedite the test results,” Dr. Norman said. “That means our state can respond quickly and effectively. Make no mistake -- our team is experienced. They are highly trained and prepared to keep Kansans safe.”

The Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories facility, in Topeka, was one of the first in the country to be certified by the CDC to test for COVID-19. When there is a Person Under Investigation, KDHE coordinates with the local health department and other stakeholders such as hospitals and clinicians to help coordinate sample collection and shipping to the KDHE Lab, which cuts the testing time for suspected cases down from days to hours.   

The adjutant general outlined KDEM’s preparedness efforts as part of a coordinated state response. 

“We stand ready to support county emergency managers for resources and technical assistance when needed,” Tafanelli said. “We have been coordinating, planning and participating in briefings with local, state and federal partners on a daily basis. We stand ready to respond.”


Symptoms

Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath. These symptoms can develop 2-14 days after exposure. The symptoms can range from mild to severe – and in rare cases, have resulted in death. 

If you have recently traveled to areas including China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea and have developed fever with lower respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel or have had contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. You may also call the KDHE phone hotline number.

KDHE HOTLINE NUMBER: 1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF)


Prevention

There is no current vaccine for COVID-19. However, there are ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• Cough into your sleeve and sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning products.