County prepares for impact of COVID-19 pandemic

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By Jessie Wagoner

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid changes throughout McPherson County over the last week. Schools are closed, many employees are working from home and local businesses have been impacted. Medical professionals and emergency responders are bracing themselves for a tough road ahead.

As of press time, McPherson County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. There are 82 confirmed positive cases in Kansas and two deaths have occurred as a result. Although daily updates are provided by both the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the McPherson County Health Department, it is unlikely the numbers reported provide an accurate number of positive cases. KDHE announced Monday additional changes to testing procedures due to the limited number of tests available.

Due to wide scale shortages of laboratory supplies and reagents, testing for COVID-19 at the state lab is being prioritized for public health purposes and urgent need. Those include:

  • Healthcare workers and first responders who have COVID-19 symptoms
  • Potential clusters of unknown respiratory illness, with priority given to long-term care facilities and healthcare facilities
  • Hospitalized patients with no alternative diagnosis
  • Individuals over the age of 60 who have symptoms of COVID-19 with priority given to people who reside in a nursing home, long-term care facility or other congregate setting, and
  • Individuals with underlying health conditions that would be treated differently if they were infected with COVID-19.

KDHE has been in contact with the CDC, FEMA, manufacturers and distributors of the testing supplies and reagents to find ones our laboratory needs to run the specimens collected for COVID-19 testing,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said. “We are doing everything in our power to get supplies for our state. We are focusing testing in our lab on higher risk individuals at this time.”

Without adequate testing, it is difficult to assess how quickly COVID-19 is spreading throughout the country. In spite of the lack of data, McPherson County continues to prepare for the impact to come. The county is expecting a shipment of supplies, including personal protective equipment, which will be distributed as needed. McPherson Center for Health is in the process of finalizing details to develop a plan for accepting homemade masks for their staff.

The city of McPherson has created a HUB of current COVID-19 information relative to the area. It can be found by visiting the city website at www.mcpcity.com. The city has made the decision to close the municipal building to public access. City employees will still be working and can be reached by phone.

School districts throughout McPherson County continue to work on creating educational plans to meet the needs of students who will complete the school year from home. A plan is expected to be in place by April 1. USD-418 is providing free breakfast, lunch and dinner to children ages 1-18.

The McPherson County Health Department provides a COVID-19 update each day which The McPherson News-Ledger posts on our Facebook page. The health department encourages members of the community to stay home and follow all CDC guidelines.

KDHE is now mandating 14-day home quarantine for Kansans who have:

  • Traveled to a state with known widespread community transmission (California, Florida, New York and Washington state) on or after March 15.
  • Traveled to Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.
  • Visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado in the week of March 8 or after.
  • Traveled on a cruise ship or river cruise on or after March 15.
    • People who have previously been told by public health to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should finish out their quarantine.
  • Traveled internationally on or after March 15.
    • People who have previously been told by public health to quarantine because of their international travel to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran should finish out their quarantine.
  • Received notification from public health officials (state or local) that you are a close contact of a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. You should quarantine at home for 14 days since your last contact with the case. (A close contact is defined as someone who has been closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes while the patient is symptomatic.)