Preparation, communication key to help control COVID-19

Posted at 11:58 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-08 00:58:31-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Government and health officials have warned for several weeks that it was a matter of when, not if, COVID-19 would make its way to the Kansas City area.

It arrived Saturday as Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Johnson County health officials confirmed that a woman under the age of 50 has tested “presumptive positive” for COVID-19.

It is the first confirmed case in Kansas, though the test has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation.

“It was not a matter of if, but when, and so hopefully health systems and hospitals and counties and cities have all been preparing for the eventual cases when they do occur,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, who specializes in infectious diseases at The University of Kansas Health System, said Saturday by phone.

Missouri also confirmed its first COVID-19 case Saturday, a St. Louis County woman in her 20s who recently returned from Italy.

With the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments coming to downtown Kansas City this week, Hawkinson said she understands some people will be concerned about such a large gathering of people but counsels against panic.

“I think it's going to be down to those event promoters as well as discussions with their local health departments and also overall guidance from the CDC on larger issues to help get guidance on what we should be doing for those types of events,” she said.

Hawkinson stressed that commonsense disease-prevention remains the best approach for helping prevent COVID-19’s spread.

That includes handwashing, good hygiene, avoiding contact with your face, covering your mouth if you have a cough or sneeze, maintaining personal space and disinfecting surfaces and items that are touched frequently.

“If you think you may have symptoms or may have an illness, it's probably not a good idea to report to the emergency department or your physician's office, but rather call them or call a medical provider to get further information on what to do to keep other people safe.,” Hawkinson said.

COVID-19 can have a long incubation period before a patient presents with symptoms and some infected people experience very mild symptoms.

Both factors complicate preventing the disease’s spread, because an infected person could pass it along without ever realizing they were sick, according to Hawkinson.

Older patients, especially those with existing respiratory issues or other risk factors like diabetes, seem to be more susceptible to the most severe form of COVID-19.