PITTSBURG — With the U.S. death toll from COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, rising to 14 by Friday, concerns about the spread of disease remain a major focus of media coverage and government preventative action.
“The threat of coronavirus is serious, and today the Senate took an important step to ensure our federal, state and local governments have the tools necessary to help protect against the spread of the virus,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in a press release Thursday afternoon.
“The Senate passed an $8.3 billion supplemental funding package to supply test kits, quarantine locations, additional medical staff, further research on the virus and more. I am pleased that Kansas will receive $6 million to bolster the state's efforts to protect against the coronavirus. This funding is an important step in protecting the health of the American people, and I will continue to work with the administration, state and health officials to make certain we are ready on all fronts to stop the spread of this virus.”
Moran's statement followed one by Gov. Laura Kelly the previous day.
“There are no confirmed cases in Kansas, but we are prepared,” Kelly said in her statement. “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.”
With so much attention on COVID-19 from politicians and national news outlets, the Morning Sun decided to see what some regular people in downtown Pittsburg on Friday thought of the virus.
“I don't really know much about it; I've heard of it,” said Mellony McGee, 35, who is originally from Wyandotte County but has been staying in Pittsburg recently. McGee added that what she has heard about the virus “does bother me and worry me,” and she had heard it originated in China.
“I kind of feel like if people would stop going back and forth we wouldn't be bringing it over here,” she said.
While she thinks it is a good idea for people to wash their hands, cover their mouths if they cough or sneeze, and take other basic precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, McGee said, there's also only so much people can do on their own, although she'd like to see the government doing more to combat the virus.
“I wish I had an underground bunker because if I had an underground bunker I'd already be in it,” McGee said.
Bryan Lewandowski, 31, a freelance artist and photographer who lives in Pittsburg and was painting a mural at 6th and Broadway on Friday, said while he has some concerns about the virus, he also doesn't think there's much he can do about it.
“To be honest with you I'm not really that worried about it,” he said. “If it does hit there's only so many things you can do, you know what I mean? That's why everyone's kind of panicked about it, because I think the truth is there's really not that much we can do about it until there's a legitimate understanding of what it is and how it operates. I try to just be at peace with some of that.”
He said taking basic precautions like washing your hands and staying out of peoples' way if they're coughing or sneezing were worthwhile, but will only work to some extent to prevent the virus from spreading.
“You can prepare all day long, but I feel like the people you're in contact with aren't going to do that,” Lewandowski said.
He said government officials are “probably doing as much as they can” to fight the spread of the virus, although the public might think otherwise.
“It doesn't sound like from what I've been hearing that people are happy with the way the government's handling it, but I mean I just feel like no matter what there's always going to be a bias in the way people get their information,” Lewandowski said, “especially with something like this when you're dealing with an election right around the corner, it seems like a really easy thing to kind of prey upon I think and mess with people's perception of what's really happening and what they really should be worried about and if there's reason to panic about it.”
While he is personally not too concerned about the coronavirus, Lewandowski said, for certain vulnerable populations it could be a bigger issue.
“I feel like if you have bad health or you're over 70, I feel like that's probably going to be the majority of the people you have to look out for really,” he said.
Nefty Torres, a school bus driver who was visiting Pittsburg Friday and walking around downtown after bringing a group of students from the Jefferson City, Missouri, area to the Pittsburg State University Jazz Festival, fits into that over-70 category, but similarly said he isn't very worried about the virus.
“I'm not concerned about it,” he said, adding that he thought the virus was being hyped up by the media to some extent.
“I'm not going to be losing any sleep over it, you know what I'm saying? I mean I'm a Vietnam vet, I was in worse than this virus can ever [be],” Torres said, adding that the government's response so far has been what he would expect and he had no criticism of it.
“I'm not going to get all worked up about it, but I'm going to take a little bit of precaution, you know, just in case,” he said.
“Like the doctors say, keep your hands clean, you know, if you touch something, if you shake hands, wash your hands,” Torres said. “Keep away from the mass crowds, if you will, you know, limit your exposure. That's pretty much what I'm doing. Other than that I'm not worried about it at all.”