KCMO’s Health Department director says funding is major hurdle in preventing coronavirus

Rex Archer.jpeg
Posted at 6:24 AM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 07:29:02-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Without extra federal funding, the director of Kansas City, Missouri’s Health Department said fighting the coronavirus will be like putting out a fire with no firefighters.

Dr. Rex Archer said that with a blank check, he’d spend money on lab space within the Health Department to process tests, getting word out to the public and on hiring more disease detectives.

Think of disease detectives as police detectives, but instead of finding a killer, they track down how a person got sick and who else may be at risk of getting the same sickness.

The director said without money to hire more detectives, his department is handcuffed.

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“We've gotten smarter at what we need to do by 10 or 15 percent every year for 20 years. The problem is, with the lack of funding, we've lost an eye, an ear, an arm and a leg, maybe half of our tongue. It has been a challenge from the standpoint of actually being able to implement fully those plans we know we can or should do,” Archer said.

The director pointed out the federal government is currently considering sending more money to state and local health departments. But, he said the government can’t give a one-time shot in the arm, it needs to increase funding and commit to that number year after year so agencies will be better prepared for the next outbreak.

The good news so far is there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Kansas City or the surrounding cities as of Feb. 28. Although the department is monitoring people who have a slightly higher risk of contracting the virus.

Nonetheless, Archer said his department is stepping up its level of preparedness and now treating the virus as an incident. That means he and his staff have begun meeting every day to discuss the coronavirus. But they haven't gone into an all hands on deck response.

Archer said they don't need to go into emergency operations yet because there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city and the existing hospitals can handle the current required response.

Archer does suggest everyone stop shaking hands for a little while because viruses can easily spread from one person to another through contact. He said bumping elbows or bowing to one another instead of shaking hands will help keep you from getting the flu and coronavirus.