Large area employers discuss coronavirus response

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Eyewitness News Monday reached out to a few of the area's largest employers regarding their responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Health officials confirm 11 cases in Kansas, eight of which are out of Johnson County and one case each out of Butler, Franklin and Wyandotte counties. The state's lone fatal case from the virus was a man at Life Care Center of Kansas City, Kan. in Wynadotte County.

The state reports 234 tests for COVID-19 came back negative.

As of Monday afternoon, Eyewitness News received responses from Textron Aviation, Koch Industries, Cargill and Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita. Eyewitness News also reached out to the Kansas Lottery Commission concerning the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, which, for now, hasn't officially announced any changes to its plans to remain open while taking precautions.

In Wichita, Textron and Spirit announced similar plans to help make sure its employees stay healthy. Textron says it's established "a cross-functional team" that meets multiple times each day to respond to the latest developments on the coronavirus.

"Beginning last week, the company began taking action with such measures as limiting large group meetings, increasing daily cleaning of its facilities, restricting travel, and cancelling our participation in several global meetings and events," Textron says. "This is a rapidly evolving situation and we continue monitoring the guidance of the CDC and local governing health authorities to ensure we are developing the best policies and practices to keep our teams and customers safe."

Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita's largest employer says it, too, has a task force in place to monitor updates with COVID-19 and has travel restrictions in place "for all Spirit sites, as well as increased screening activities for visitors to (its) sites."

"In addition, we encourage employees and others to engage in behaviors to maintain the health and safety of all employees," the company says. "This does include self-quarantine when appropriate, and some employees are currently doing this."

Koch Industries says it's encouraging its Wichita employees to work from home if they're able to do so.

"Koch companies across the country have issued similar guidance," the company says.

Koch Industries, too, says it's dedicated teams that meet daily "to address (its) employees questions and concerns, and to take action based on the information and guidance coming from the (World Health Organization), (Center for Disease Control), and public health officials."

Actions include:

• Monitoring employee health and ensuring immediate medical response if needed

• Providing employees resources about preventing the spread of the virus

• Providing additional flexibility and support in our health care benefits

• Cleaning our facilities as appropriate in adherence to the CDC guidelines

• Encouraging visitor meetings to be rescheduled or facilitate via other means, such as video meetings, phone call or email

• Providing guidance to employees regarding travel, specifically areas of high-risk and areas with current government bans

• Ensuring our IT systems are able to manage an increased number of remote workers if needed.

"Above all, we are encouraging employees to be proactive and well-informed," the company says. "Koch companies are taking this issue seriously and will continue to monitor ongoing developments in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Cargill also says it's encouraging employees to work from home when possible and says its facilities "are operating with extra sanitation and screening measures."