Update – Kansas Covid-19 response – May 29

The calls with Gov. Laura Kelly have moved from weekly to every two weeks. Here’s some information from this week’s call.

Dr. Lee Norman with KDHE

Kansas currently has 9,719 cases, and increase of 382 cases from Wednesday. We have 208 deaths, up 3 from Wednesday. There have been 122 clusters, of which 47 are closed. About half of the positive cases come from clusters, as well as 141 deaths. Lansing Correctional Facility has almost 1,000 cases and 6 deaths. Several weeks ago they tested everybody, offenders and staff, a few weeks ago, tested 200 offenders, almost 50-75 percent positive. Then they tested another cohort of 150 and only 6 percent tested positive. Today another group of 120 was tested, at 3.7 percent positive. Dr. Norman indicated this demonstrates that the virus is not gone, not forgotten, but that it’s moving the right way. There have been five clusters in health care, with no deaths. He said we have been fortunate in this state – across U.S. there have been 60,000 cases and 300 deaths in among healthcare workers.

Meatpacking industry has 10 clusters, with 1,047 cases and 9 deaths. Relatively low number of deaths reflects younger people who are relatively healthy. Numbers are dropping in percent of positive cases. He pointed out that only five states have a better case mortality rate than Kansas. He said that numbers today show we’re pushing down the R-naught number, which is a measure of a virus’ infectibility/spread rate. We began with R-naught of 5, but that began to drop as we put measures in place. We are now the 7th best state in the country with an 0.87 R-naught. If we keep that number below 1.0 and push it down even further, it will be good news. Anything less than 1 means that the virus could burn out. It takes a few incubation periods to make it go away completely, and you always worry about out of state people bringing it in. He did point out it’s spotty in the state – Shawnee is the 29th most likely place for an outbreak in the country because the numbers aren’t going down. He also pointed out that other cities and states are overtaxing medical resources, but that Kansas never overtaxed resources. Places like Montgomery, Alabama, Omaha, Nebraska, and the state of RI, all are overtaxing medical capacity.

Dr. Norman also expressed satisfaction with the models used early on to project the Coronavirus. “Way back in March, we forcast where numbers would be. Before there was much activity – We’ve been pretty spot on. We are low on deaths – projected 265. Higher on cases, but lower on hospitals and vents. The models have been pretty much spot on.”


The Kansas Department of Emergency Management said they are still in full activation, and have begun emergency response planning for Wave 2.

There are currently 680 members of the National Guard on active duty. They’ll begin reducing those numbers and plan to have that down to around 200 by August. They currently have federal authority to get federal funds for these members. They are hopeful that will extend later into the summer.

The most recent Emergency Orders issued by the Governor allow the Guard to remain an active participant in the planning and recovery efforts. That includes things like full staffing of the Emergency Operations Center, support to 104 counties, and work on 19 different missions that assist a number of state agencies.

KDEM and the Guard have received more than 1,500 county resource requests. They have purchased 77 million pieces of PPE, and the guard has delivered more than 3 million pieces. They are still managing the state warehouse on this issue, running supplies and medicine to counties, and shuttling tests to the KDHE lab in Topeka. They’ve also helped prep more than 2 million meals for distribution throughout the state, and are on the cusp of breaking 3 million.

They pointed out that without the Governor’s emergency declarations, none of the work they’ve done could continue.

Office of Recovery

Executive Director Cheryl Harrison Lee said she reached out to the executive committee this week. They will meet Tuesday, and begin work to get federal dollars out to local communities in a way that is fair and timely. They are looking at areas that are in the greatest need – in terms of health and economy. The money will likely go out in waves, beginning with helping counties recoup some of the costs associated with Covid-19 response.

Gov. Laura Kelly

The Governor pointed out that the Ad Astra recovery plan is no longer a requirement, but rather a guide for counties as they take over local management of the health side of the pandemic.

She asked a question (submitted to her office) about how governing bodies should handle meetings going forward – and whether they should quickly return to in person meetings. He said that if the work can be managed remotely, that’s still the best practice. He added that following the safety measure of social distancing and wiping down surfaces is still the best approach. In the work place, he said that “engineering controls” such as sneeze guards are a good practice to protect employees and customers. He said the CDC released guidelines about best practices for returning to the workplace. Here’s a link to a bunch of CDC guidance for different sectors and populations.

She ran through her most recent Emergency Orders, including: A new disaster declaration that includes some of the original information for continuity of response resources; continuing to expand telemedicine; loosening licensing requirements in certain fields; extending driver’s license and registration deadlines; waivers for unemployment benefits; allowing notaries to use audio/visual technology; providing flexibility for adult care homes that need to quarantine residents; allowing for the sale of alcohol to go; lifting weight limits of trucks; and allowing employers with negative unemployment account balances to participate in shared work programs. (Executive orders 20-35 through 20-44) 

Dr. Norman also pointed out how much information is available on the state’s Covid-19 site. He also included a presentation that can help users navigate the site, and drill down into some of the data. That is provided below.

As always, if you have questions or need any assistance, please reach out to me.

  KDHE COVID19 Data Dashboard

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