Sedgwick County health officials not recommending local 'shelter-in-place' order

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sedgwick County health officials do not recommend a shutdown at this time for the county, but commissioners could know more about one by its next meeting on Wednesday.

The Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss what should be done to protect the community during the coronavirus outbreak. It comes after three counties in the Kansas City area (Jackson County, Mo., Johnson County, Kan., Wyandotte County, Kan.) issued a mandatory stay-at-home rule that begins Tuesday in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus.

"I want them to analyze it. If we can get close to a similar page with Kansas City and I think we send a message to our community and state that we’re doing something to handle Kansas and handle Wichita," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Chair Pete Meitzner.

With many people already working from home or waiting for work to resume, members of the Board of Commissioners consider a stay at home order the next step.

"In a way, we’re probably already practicing it in practicality. This would just formalize it," Meitzner said.

What has to be determined is which workers and services will be deemed essential and exempted from a stay at home order.
A stay at home isn't a lockdown but a move designed to limit the movement of people and the spread of the virus.
Businesses and services like hospitals, first responders and grocery stores would remain open.

Laundromat, those that don’t have a washer-dryer they need to be able [to go there]," said Meitzner. "The list of essential services. We all know that Spirit, NIAR and Textron are doing essential services for defense purposes."

"If you get too extensive, it’s really not much of a shelter in place, but on the other hand, you need to have enough exemptions that can keep society running. You have to have people who repair cars. You have to have people who repair things that break down in your home," said Dr. Garold Minns, M.D. The dean at KU School of Medicine in Wichita added, "It’s not that I don’t think we’re we won’t have to get more restrictive, probably will but we got a little time to get more information and see how we can do this in the best way possible that’s the least painful to our county."

There are currently two cases of COVID019 (coronavirus) in Sedgwick County. With those numbers, Dr. Garold Minns, the Sedgwick County Public County Health Officer, said he does not see a need to shelter in place at this time but he said the county should continue educating the community about the ever-changing situation.

"If I had my preference, we would isolate everyone totally and shut the city down and then wait for a vaccine to appear in a year and a half, said Dr. Minns "but I realize the consequence of doing that would probably be worse than the disease."

He said a number of restaurants have gone to drive-thru only operations and other businesses have chosen to shut down own their own - for at least two weeks.

"At least, in my opinion, Americans are much more compliant when they feel like they've been informed and they've had a chance to make a decision voluntarily," said Dr. Minns.

He said at this point when hospitals are "quiet" and not overwhelmed with patients, he would prefer to monitor the situation in Sedgwick County and act if it changes.

"If we start seeing an upsurge in cases, we may have to consider that. But as of today, the 22nd of March, I think that it's better to do what we're doing: asking the public, educating them, having a number of sessions through the media, TV other media, explaining what the disease is and why it's so important that we observe these recommendations about social distancing, handwashing, reducing their activity in the community to as low of a level as possible," said Dr. Minns.

Currently, Sedgwick County has a ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people while the CDC recommendation is for less than 10. Dr. Minns said he was not opposed to the county modifying its ban to the lesser number, but he said it's more about distance when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Another obstacle Sedgwick County faces, along with counties and states across the country, is the lack of test kits.

Deputy County Manager Tim Kaufman said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) lab is also seeing a shortage in the reagents to take tests. Therefore, only certain people in the county will be tested for COVID-19. Those people include law enforcement officers, public health workers, people over 60 who are showing symptoms and those hospitalized due to their symptoms of COVID-19.

Kaufman said the alternative is working with local private labs, but the turnaround time is 4-5 days compared to the current 24-hour turnaround time from KDHE.

County Manager Tom Stolz said another shortage facing Sedgwick County is PPE or personal protective equipment.

"We're reaching out to our private partners to step up and help us because we're not getting it at a fast enough rate from the national stockpile, and quite frankly, there are cities in this country that are hurting way more than we are," said Stolz.

He said he put out a plea to the Greater Wichita Partnership and the Wichita Chamber for PPE including N95 respirators/surgical masks, protective gloves, hand sanitizer and basic cleaner. He said he had been in touch with a Hutchinson company that could create and distribute 1,000 N95 masks per day, if they get the right tool and specs.

Stolz said while first responders and healthcare workers are at the top of this list of those who need protective gear, there are others in the community, doing daily jobs who would be safer by wearing PPE.

"Went to Dillons today and there was a checkout person there who was, having a thousand contacts. She had no protective equipment on. If she had an N95 mask on, she could do her job and she could do it safely. We need to do what we can to get her that equipment," said Stolz.

County commissioners are expected to look over what a "stay at home" ordinance could look like for Sedgwick County by Wednesday.

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sedgwick County officials report that a second resident has tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The patient is a man under the age of 60-years-old. He was tested at his provider and has a history of travel to Colorado. No other information will be provided about the patient.

Officials say the man is currently in home isolation, following the guidance of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and CDC and will be in daily contact with the Sedgwick County Health Department (SCHD) and medical providers.

SCHD has identified that the only close contacts were household members. They will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

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Sedgwick County officials along with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) have confirmed the first presumptive-positive case of COVID-19 in a Sedgwick County resident.

The patient, a woman over 60 years old, is currently in home isolation, following the guidance of the CDC. She had no known travel history, according to county health officials.

KDHE continues to work with the Sedgwick County Health Department and the CDC to identified and contact a small number of close contacts the woman was around while she was infectious. They are now under quarantine for 14 days and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

"Getting the test results done is not the issue it's the sample side of this, the beginning side where we meet with the patient, swab them, put it into the proper medium," said Sedgwick County manager Tom Stolz. "We do not have enough of these sample kits today to create a more global testing system so those sample systems that we have are priority."

The Kansas State Capitol is closed down to the public but is still running services. Sedgwick County is taking a similar approach.

Next Monday, the county will close some non-essential facilities. They ask that you set appointments by phone. A lot of county employees will start working remotely next week.

Similar to other coronaviruses, this novel coronavirus is likely to spread by droplets from an infected person’s nose or mouth through coughing and sneezing. Below is a list of ways you can help prevent illness:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water - use hand sanitizer if soap isn’t available
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick
• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs
• Stay home when you are sick

The SCHD continually updates the Sedgwick County website and encourages residents to stay informed and look for new information at www.sedgwickcounty.org.