KDHE expands COVID-19 resources

Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 2:22 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The KDHE is expanding its resources to help fight COVID-19.

Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says the agency has added resources for long-term care facilities and is expanding its wastewater testing efforts.

Dr. Norman said Kansas has seen an increase of 17 deaths related to COVID-19 and 1,244 new cases since its Monday report. He said Tuesday saw the state’s highest hospital admissions since the beginning of the pandemic in March with 81 new patients checking in.

According to Dr. Norman, Kansas is still in the red zone with COVID-19 deaths compared to the rest of the United States. He said Kansas has 2.3 deaths per 100,000 residents, while the rest of the nation is at 1.5 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

Dr. Norman also said it would be vital to get the flu vaccine before Oct. 31. He said immunity wains for the flu after a certain period of time as evidenced by the 2009 cases. He said in 2009, there were two peaks to the flu season, partially due to H1N1 and partially due to immunity wearing out.

However, Dr. Norman said after receiving a flu shot if a resident still contracts the flu, the symptoms are much less severe. He said that in his 40 years in the medical profession he has never seen a person die from the flu that has received the vaccine.

Dr. Norman also announced that his department has expanded on two resources for fighting COVID-19. He said on the KDHE COVID-19 dashboard, there has been a tab added for long-term care facilities. He said the information there will allow long term care facilities to make the best decisions about testing to stay in compliance with state and national guidelines.

According to the KDHE Secretary, the department will also expand its wastewater testing efforts for COVID-19.

“While we realize it isn’t a silver bullet, for COVID-19, it does provide us additional piece of data we can use to fight COVID-19.”

Dr. Norman said earlier in the year that the KDHE had contracted the University of Kansas to test wastewater for COVID-19. He said the virus appears in wastewater before outbreaks, giving communities a seven-day warning before COVID-19 cases begin to rise.

“I would still say at this point we are getting more experienced with it but it can be a very important adjunct for the early recognition of outbreaks,” he said. “Subsequent testing will allow us to know when and where we need to mobilize our resources.”

According to Dr. Norman, the department is expanding the wastewater effort throughout the state. He said in the Kansas City Metro area, KU will collect samples from multiple wastewater plants in order to read the COVID-19 presence. He said for rural Kansas the department will conduct baseline sampling for rural Kansas counties which will give it a better read of the virus presence.

Dr. Norman said this is a time to unite, “We need to fight with this virus and not with each other.”

Oct. 7, 2:22 p.m.

Dr. Lee Norman to hold COVID-19 news conference

Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, will be holding a COVID-19 news conference.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says Secretary Dr. Lee Norman will be hosting a news conference on Wednesday at 4 p.m. to update the state on its COVID-19 efforts.

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