Over the weekend COVID-19, the new coronavirus, spread to both Kansas and Missouri, with cases confirmed in Johnson and St. Louis counties, respectively.
A patient diagnosed with the coronavirus has been admitted to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City “but the hospital didn’t say Monday whether it is the same case that state health officials earlier announced or the state’s second case of the virus,” the Associated Press reported.
Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Lee Norman spoke with doctors from the hospital during a press conference Monday, urging caution and noting that permanent solutions to the virus outbreak are not imminent but also saying the KDHE is making progress on getting the spread of the disease under control.
More cases of coronavirus in Kansas are to be expected, Norman said, noting that “a lot of the cases moved in from the coasts and into the larger midwestern cities and then are starting to distribute.”
The COVID-19 outbreak currently underway worldwide is an “infectious emergency,” Norman said.
“So we are going to get more cases. Are we prepared for it? Yes. You know H1N1 in ‘09, Ebola in 2014, they’re both different than what we’re doing now, but those are great trial runs. We’ve got the resources lined up,” Norman said. “Can you make a case for thousands at some future date? That would be a strain on the system, there’s no question about that. I don’t anticipate that, but we will have more cases in the State of Kansas.”
Though more than $8 billion has been approved at the federal level to fight the coronavirus, $6 million of which is expected to be distributed to Kansas, Norman said the federal government does not yet have any solution that is particularly better than what the state is doing.
“I just came an hour ago from a call with Vice President Pence and his team and there was nothing reassuring other than … development of vaccine and antivirals are in process but we don’t have any of that now and real— honestly I don’t think there’s going to be anything for even 6 to 12 months, probably 12 months or greater until a vaccine is available,” Norman said.
At any given time, about 80 people are being monitored for coronavirus, Norman said, with between four and six people being tested for the disease each day.
“We’re easily able to stay ahead of the demand,” he said. “We feel that we can do up to about 60 tests a day without overly straining. We have the inventory of the test kits in order to do that. But at the current run rate of about 4 to 6 tests per day, we’re in good shape from that perspective.”
The KU doctors Norman was speaking with, however, noted that their hospital is not currently capable of testing for COVID-19 and is continuing to have to go through KDHE to test for the virus.
“The endgame I think on this will be that there’ll be - and hopefully within the next week or two even - a commercially available test that hospitals and physicians for example can send test results locally to have done by a reference lab in the community, and then that hospitals themselves will be able to run the tests in the future,” Norman said. “We’re not there yet.”
Over the weekend Missouri officials also announced that a 20-year-old St. Louis County woman who had recently returned from Italy — a country where hundreds have died from the virus and which reportedly “plunged into chaos after details of a plan to quarantine more than 16 million people were leaked to the press, sending thousands into panic as they tried to flee” — had also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Despite being told to self-quarantine, two Catholic schools in suburban St. Louis were closed Monday after close family members of the Missouri woman diagnosed with coronavirus failed to follow the health department’s instructions, and Amtrak was reportedly notifying passengers who rode the same train as she did from Chicago that they may have been exposed to the virus.
The KDHE is continuing to urge the public to take basic precautions to prevent the spread of the virus such as washing your hands, covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze, avoiding close contact with others when possible, and self-quarantining and getting tested if you suspect you have come into contact with the coronavirus.