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KCMO officials say 2 COVID-19 cases 'is tip of iceberg,' keep practicing good hygiene

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 17:38:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said Wednesday during a press conference that city officials were surprised it took so long for the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 to reach KCMO.

“I don’t think it is anything more than our fortune,” Lucas said. “When you look at the community transmission we’ve seen, it’s likely ... we’ve had community transmission for a number of days or weeks. We’re just seeing that reflected now.”

KCMO Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer has stressed for several weeks it was inevitable.

Earlier Wednesday, state officials announced the first COVID-19 death in Missouri.

Now that it’s confirmed in the city, Lucas asked residents to “double down further” on good hygiene practices, social distancing and other health-related orders and recommendations from the city and the KCMO Health Department.

“We think these are vital. We have taken important steps to make sure we won’t have further spread,” Lucas said. “We continue to ask Kansas Citians to be vigilant, not just for their own health but for the health of others.”

Archer added, “We’ve assumed that we’ve had cases, which is why we started all these practices.”

He emphasized that people with heart, lung or immune system issues are having the hardest time with disease along with people over 60 years old.

Patients who are young and experiencing only mild symptoms should call their primary care physicians in lieu of calling 911 to lessen burdens on hospital emergency rooms, Emergency Medical Services Medical Director Dr. Erica Carney said.

For people who do not have a primary care doctor, she recommends calling a nurse-care line or use telemedicine to speak with a medical professional.

Both individuals with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kansas City, Missouri, are resting at home and do not require hospitalization at this time. At least one had recently traveled out of state, according to Archer.

"We believe that these cases are the tip of the iceberg," Archer said.

He said there does not seem to be a common source or overlapping exposure between the two cases, a sign that COVID-19 is already in the community.

“We have several hundred tests from area hospitals going to testing labs every day, so we expect that number to go up,” Archer said.

He also stressed that the KCMO Health Department is not conducting tests, so patients should not come there expecting to be tested.

Archer said the number of COVID-19 cases in the area will continue to grow, and possibly rapidly in the coming days, but the health and safety measures in place are designed to help mitigate the spread.

Lucas also expects more COVID-19 detection in the coming days and weeks.

“Our biggest message today is to continue to follow the methods we have laid out ... because we are not out of the woods,” Lucas said.

He stressed that “we do not know” when the pandemic will be over, but “we will be as aggressive as possible as long as possible” to ensure the situation doesn’t get worse before it gets better.

Lucas asked people to stop stockpiling gloves and masks for “doomsday scenarios,” because of the possible supply-chain disruption for first-responders and medical personnel.

Services reductions may be coming for public transit in the coming days, but Lucas doesn’t want to strand people who rely on it to get to work, to buy food and to get to doctors.

As for schools, “I have not heard from medical professionals that we need to close schools for the rest of the school year at this time,” Lucas said.

Archer said he believes a vaccine is at least 18 months away, so as the spread waxes and wanes there may be an easing and re-imposition of restrictions on gatherings and other activities.