On Thursday Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced Kansas has been declared in a state of emergency due to COVID-19, and said, "The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria." This will enable ease with coordination of response efforts between local, state and federal partners.

Gov. Kelly reported, "The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has announced the first COVID-19 related death." The 70-plus-year-old man resided in a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County.

CDC Recommendations

Gov. Kelly wished to inform the public that the state is well prepared to deal with the current situation. She wishes to encourage anyone experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath who thinks they may have come into contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 to stay home and call their health care provider. Other preventative actions recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) include:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when sick
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on protecting yourself and your family as updated 

 

Local Officials Updated

During the Thursday evening Independence City Commission meeting, Interim City Manager Kelly Passauer gave commissioners a brief overview of precautions the city is taking toward the coronavirus pandemic. "Lee Miller with the county and Rick Whitson went through some of that but I wanted David (Cowan) to walk you through some facts about that," she said. "I know it's a hot topic, we are getting a lot of calls and questions."

"It is a hot topic," Cowan began. "The biggest thing is we don't want anyone to panic. The hard part is we are still in the middle of the flu season, there are still a lot of people sick and we are still running a lot of older people who are sick with the flu so it's just a bad time of the year. We are coming to a warmer season which should help tremendously but we have the next three to four weeks that are really going to be kind of challenging." 

Cowan told commissioners concerns lie with the elderly as they are the ones especially susceptible to the illness. "We encourage people to just have wisdom … where you are traveling, large groups … this is the time of year with spring break and I think it's really, not heightened it, but just makes people more aware that kids are traveling all over the country and the chances are increased," stated Cowan.

He mentioned using wisdom and washing your hands frequently. "Wash your hands a lot each and every day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth," he said. "We are seeing a lot of different things as the country tries to work to slow this down by games being postponed or not having audiences, just trying to keep those crowds from gathering around where a lot of transmission happens."

Cowan said more than likely, the area will see cases pop up and its going to spread. "We at the city are encouraging our employees if they are sick or have a fever, stay at home," he explained. "Stay home and get well, see your doctor, you don't want to make anybody else sick. Just those common things that we all should do every flu season." He added the coronavirus is a very common virus that passes and this is just a mutated form. "Just be more diligent about cleaning your work spaces, washing your hands, taking care of yourself, getting plenty of rest, keeping your immune system up and strong and we will make it through this. I guarantee we will make it through this," Cowan said. 

Mayor Leonhard Caflisch said, "Sounds like what you are saying is the key to controlling it is action by us. It's not a government, it's not a city or organization, the responsibility is to each of us to wash our hands, control our coughs, make sure when you go to Walmart you get the little cleaning swab and wipe the hand rail off."

"And if you are thinking about traveling to a larger area you just need to think about it," Cowan added. "You just need to make wise decisions and if you have been in a situation where you think you have been exposed, make the wise decision to stay away from people to make sure you aren't sick."

If you have a fever, have a respiratory type of illness or cough you should stay home. Cowan said the city is working on a policy for the city. "It is a concern and our concern is as a city we have to function and this virus is around and will likely be in the area but when people get exposed you get put in 14 day quarantine to make sure it doesn't spread. As a city we have to function and worry about staffing," he said, adding how colleges and hospitals are doing different policies as well. "We don't want to be sick but if you wipe out all your staff, how will you do those important functions and keep the systems going."

Community Access Center (CAC) Changing Operations

Chris Mitchell, director of the CAC (food pantry) in Independence recently announced that changes in their daily operations would be implemented due to the coronavirus starting on Monday. This happening with food pantries across the state. Mitchell reported, "When we called the Kansas Food Bank, I think that they were proud to know that they were already doing most of everything they suggested." 

 

Instead of people coming in to get their allotment of food, the CAC is now having them call to place their order ahead of time. Mitchell said, "It's no longer going to be where people can come in and shop." Arrangements will be made for consumers to come at a specific time and to pick up their order. They can pull up, 'pop the trunk' and their order will be carted out to their vehicle and loaded for them.

 

For people needing financial services, most business and transactions will be conducted over the phone using account numbers. Scott Petersen commented, "We can do a lot by just pure phone and never see anything." Mitchell added, "If it's somebody that's never been here before, it might be a little more difficult."

Home Sweet Home Changing Operations

Mitchell is also the director of Home Sweet Home Homeless Ministries. He said that Home Sweet Home will not be accepting any paper applications at this time. He said, "It will be by email only. We'll email you an application and have you email that back to us and you will be put on a waiting list. Mitchell said, "Our first priority is the residents that are already in there. Those that are already in there, I believe are well and I don't know that about somebody new." As of today, no applications are being accepted until the worst of the current pandemic is over.

 

Six cases reported in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced a sixth case of COVID-19 in Kansas on Friday afternoon. The presumptive positive case was identified with testing sent to KDHE's Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories (KHEL) and the results will be verified by the CDC lab. It will be treated as a positive unless determined otherwise.

“Kansans should remain vigilant,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE secretary said. “It’s important to live your lives, but it’s also important to take basic precautions like exercising good hygiene practices. It is up to each of us to do our part.”

If you have symptoms or have had contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider. You can also call the KDHE phone bank at 866-534-3463 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.