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Kansas City, Missouri, Confirms First Two Coronavirus Cases, Other Metro Totals Rise

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Frequent hand washing as well as social distancing can help stop the spread of the new coronavirus. At least 25 people in Kansas and Missouri have tested positive for COVID-19.

Updated: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18

Kansas City, Missouri, announced its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon.

At a news conference broadcast by KCTV-5, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said people should continue practicing social distancing.

“In some ways, we were a bit surprised by the amount of time it took to officially arrive but we certainly recognize that we are at a point now where I think folks need to even double down further … following those good hygiene practices,” Lucas said.

The city's health department said the two cases appear to be unrelated. One is a woman in her 40s and the other is a man in his 30s. Health department officials said they were investigating whether people who had contact with the patients should be tested.

The number of cases continued to grow elsewhere in the metro. The Wyandotte County Health Department reported 7 positive cases as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Also on Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced the state's first death from coronavirus, in Boone County.

The coronavirus situation in the Kansas City area is constantly evolving. Check out KCUR's live blog for the latest.

“We knew that Covid-19 was coming, and we’ve been preparing accordingly by monitoring individuals, educating the public, and working with our partners at all levels,” Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer said in a statement on Tuesday.

Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said that sharing the information “is key to keeping our community informed and safe, not to cause panic.”

Also on Tuesday, Unified Government Public Health Department Spokeswoman Janell Friesen said investigators were conducting what is called “a contact tracing investigation,” to see who the patients may have exposed or been in contact with, including the individual who died on March 12.

Friesen said the investigations are a call to action to adhere to measures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as well as Monday’s order from area counties to limit gatherings to 10 people, avoid bars and restaurants and keep a distance of at least six feet during social interactions.

“Having new cases in our area underscores the need for what may seem like harsh restrictions, Friesen said. “We know avoiding gatherings disrupts daily life for residents, it's hard on businesses. But taking these steps now is our best way to pro our community overall, especially those at highest risk of serious illness.”

She noted that Kansas City, Kansas, has a concentration of potentially vulnerable residents. 

“We know that the population hit hardest would be older adults and people with underlying health conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes,” Friesen said. “We know our county faces a lot of health inequities and we have a lot of residents who are faced with chronic health conditions.”

Dan Margolies, Laura Ziegler and Elle Moxley are all reporters at KCUR.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions. Email me at lauraz@kcur.org and follow me on Twitter @laurazig.
Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman was the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
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