Kansas health officials expect ‘sharp uptick’ in COVID-19 cases this week

Plan to ensure adequate hospital beds in works
Lee Norman COVID.jpg
Posted at 2:15 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 19:05:19-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Johnson County remains the only county in Kansas that the state’s Department of Health and Environment has declared is experiencing community spread of COVID-19.

"We might be looking at 300 to 400 cases by the end of this month," KDHE Director Dr. Lee Norman said. "That's a pretty sharp uptick."

He likened the COVID-19 epidemiological curve to a Nike swoosh, noting that Kansas cases are still on the upswing and the number of confirmed cases could accelerate this week.

Norman said that social distancing remains the best way to flatten that curve, which is why he’s "quite comfortable" that closing Kansas schools will help reduce COVID-19 transmission.

After running precariously low on tests last week, Norman said a shipment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped ease that concern.

“We got another shipment in over the weekend,” Norman said.

Kansas received 500 tests from the CDC on Saturday and state research labs also provided another 200 testing kits.

With private labs now able to help offset some of the testing burden, Norman said testing criteria for the KDHE lab will change.

The state lab will focus on health care workers and first responders with COVID-19 symptoms to help keep those worker populations safe.

Additionally, the state lab plans to prioritize clusters of respiratory illness.

That will be especially true when the patient population includes patients 60 years or older, particularly if there are potential outbreaks in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities as well as in hospitals.

Priority for state lab testing also will be given to individuals who have underlying conditions, who would require specialized care if they contract COVID-19.

All specimens sent to the KDHE prior to Monday will still be tested at the state lab, but health care providers are asked to send future specimens for testing to commercial labs.

“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,” Norman said in a statement. “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.”

Patients who have COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, a cough or other respiratory issues, and shortness of breath but are not a high priority for testing will be instructed to self-ioslate for seven days from the onset of symptoms or 72 hours after the fever is gone without medication, whichever is longer.

Norman stressed that Kansas is not seeing the rapid doubling of cases some other states are seeing and noted that predicting the number of cases expected is becoming easier now that the state has more than 50 confirmed COVID-19 patients.

During the press conference, Norman said he is meeting with health leaders Monday in Kansas City to discuss COVID-19 patient projections and strategies for ensuring an adequate number of hospital beds are available.

VA hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers may be adapted as COVID-19 care centers, if the need becomes great enough.

“This is on a very fast track,” Norman said.

Health care providers in the Kansas City area already have reduced or eliminated elective procedures to ensure hospital beds remain free.

“We would much prefer to use existing health care facilities, because they have gases and other things and are set up for that,” Norman said.

Johnson County, KS
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