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Kansas Coronavirus Death Involves Same Nursing Home Owner As Deadly Seattle Outbreak

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Kansas News Service

The first person to die of COVID-19 in Kansas stayed at a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County owned by the national chain with a suburban Seattle facility tied to 22 deaths from the virus.

Friday’s news comes as Wichita reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, involving a man who had taken a Caribbean cruise. That brings the state’s total known cases to six.

Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Lee Norman says the Wyandotte County man in his 70s who died Wednesday was staying at Life Care Center of Kansas City. It remains unclear how the virus reached the man, Norman said.

In a statement, the facility's owner said the man arrived there from Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, on Feb. 25. The long-term care facility then sent him to a hospital on March 7 for care “entirely unrelated to symptoms or signs of COVID-19.”

He came back from the emergency room later that day, and on March 10 “became unresponsive in our facility. We called 911 and the patient was transferred back to the hospital.”

The statement said he didn't have symptoms of respiratory illness at that time, but died the next day. Post-mortem testing revealed he had COVID-19. 

The company said it quickly isolated other patients who had contact with the man, but so far none have coronavirus symptoms. Its staff follow federal, state and local guidelines for COVID-19, the statement said.

“Every associate is also screened when they arrive for work, including checking temperature,” it said. “If they have a fever over 100.4, we send them home and ask they contact their personal physician.”

One or more health workers from Providence Medical Center are self-quarantining after caring for the man, Norman said.

More than 20 people from the Kirkland, Washington, nursing home have died. It is run by Life Care Centers of America. Dozens of others at the center have been infected, The Associated Press reported.

The company operates three locations in the Kansas City area, two in the Wichita metro and three others in rural eastern Kansas towns.

The Kansas City, Kansas, location has the lowest possible overall rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, as do its centers in Osawatomie and Burlington, Kansas, and Grandview, Missouri. These scores take into account nursing staff, health inspections and other quality factors.

Meanwhile, state officials say a 72-year-old Butler County man has come down with COVID-19 after taking a cruise in the western Caribbean. He began showing symptoms shortly after his return. Wichita’s Wesley Medical Center said in a news release that it is treating the patient and has isolated him in the hospital.

State health officials said Friday they were working with their local counterparts to reach out to people who had contact with the patient.

COVID-19 usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, found in older adults and people with health issues, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time.

State health officials say anyone with fever, coughing or shortness or breath who believes they had contact with a COVID-19 patient should stay home and call their doctor.

Kansas has identified six COVID-19 cases; in addition to the men from Butler and Wyandotte counties, a Johnson County woman became sick after domestic travel and three Johnson County men tested positive for the virus after attending a conference in Florida.

On Friday, Sedgwick County banned all gatherings with more than 250 people, including at churches. The rule applies until further notice, and doesn’t include grocery stores.

Reporter Stephan Bisaha contributed to this report.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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