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Health

A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

WICHITA, Kansas — Day cares, at a premium in Kansas in non-pandemic times, are essential businesses that can stay open while the state is under a stay-at-home order. Overall, they’re seeing a drop in the number of kids who show up, but want to be there for health care workers.

“The nurses. The doctors. Everybody on the frontlines,” Phillipsburg Child Care Center program director Brooke Feik said. “They need somewhere to take their kiddos.”

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Missouri will be under a statewide stay-at-home order starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 6, after Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced the directive Friday. The order continues through 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 24.

The order comes after the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to more than 2,100 on Friday. That’s a sharp increase since the Missouri State Medical Association called for statewide action more than a week ago and Kansas City and St. Louis business and health care leaders urged action in a letter sent to the governor on March 19. By Thursday, about 70% of Missourians were already under county or city stay-at-home orders.

Daniel Ortiz

With Kansas hospitals anticipating a surge of COVID-19 patients over the next few weeks, 52 fourth-year medical students at the University of Kansas have volunteered to graduate early in order to ease the growing burden on physicians.

“I just read these stories about everyone getting overwhelmed and the need for help,” says Daniel Ortiz, one of the students. He plans to become a psychiatrist, but he’s putting off those plans for now to help combat the pandemic. “I started thinking, ‘What is it that I could do?’ I didn’t want to sit by and do nothing.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The new coronavirus is spreading quickly around the world, including across Kansas, and setting off a range of responses.

The Kansas News Service is boiling down key developments in the state and updating the status regularly here. To read this information in Spanish, go here. This list was last updated at 12:50 p.m. April 3.

J. Schafer / Kansas Public Radio

Have you gotten tested for COVID-19 in Kansas, or have you tried? We want to hear from you. We’re also interested in hearing from health care workers about what they’re seeing in their clinics and hospitals, and from patients.

TOPEKA, Kansas — In many parts of Kansas, people not sick enough for hospitalization still can’t find out if they have COVID-19.

Jodi Fortino / KCUR 89.3

Normally by April, most seasonal colds and flu have run their course, and allergies take over as the main culprit for causing coughs and sore throats.

COVID-19 might ease up slightly along with rising temperatures in the Kansas City area, but experts don’t think the disease will turn out to be just a seasonal problem.

“I think there may well be a seasonal component to it, but it’s also true that it’s not going to go away, in the sense that there won’t be cases running around,” says Gregory Glass, a researcher at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

Celia Ruiz updates her Facebook page multiple times a day. These days, the content is all coronavirus-related – flyers from school districts on how to get kids’ lunch, infographics from local health care providers, articles on how the virus is affecting people across the world. And she’s translating it all into Spanish.

Ruiz works for United Healthcare, so she’s constantly getting new information to share.

“Once I receive a resource, I try to translate it as best and as quickly and as correctly as I can,” Ruiz says.

Lindsay Hanson Metcalf / The Journal

Librarians across Kansas struggled in March to find a balance between serving the intellectually curious and protecting public health.

Now, a statewide stay-at-home order from Gov. Laura Kelly appears to mean that all Kansas libraries will close or remain closed through April 19.

Lexie Huelskamp / Courtesy of Rob Schulte

Rob Schulte, a registered nurse at Research Medical Center, was taking care of a patient with COVID-19 symptoms and wearing a surgical mask but thought he needed the additional protection of an N95 medical mask.

So he asked his supervisor for permission to don one. Her response, according to Schulte: If she let him wear one to treat a patient who had not been confirmed with the disease, everyone at the hospital would be asking for one.

KCUR is working around the clock to keep you as informed as possible about the latest COVID-19 news in the Kansas City metro. 

Sedgwick County commissioners plan to ask the governor and health leaders to reconsider an exemption allowing abortion services to continue during the COVID-19 crisis.

Google

In the past several weeks, as metro Kansas City began working to avoid being overwhelmed by Covid-19 like big cities elsewhere, rural places like Wright County in southern Missouri have been barely touched by the disease.

But Wright County family physician Dr. David Barbe, along with other health care providers who work in remote parts of the state, have been pleading with Gov. Mike Parson to force their patients and neighbors to shelter in place.

Courtesy of KMBC live stream

Although the number of cases of COVID-19 is growing in the Kansas City area, the rate of increase does not appear to be. Still, Kansas City Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer said we must be vigilant.

"Remember about half of folks can get this virus and not become ill enough to seek medical care," Archer said in a press conference Monday on the steps of City Hall. “We know we’ve had community spread without being able to track down somebody who is positive.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service file photo

El nuevo coronavirus se está propagando rápidamente por todo el mundo, inclusive por todo Kansas y está provocando una variedad de reacciones. Kansas News Service se está concentrando en acontecimientos cruciales en el estado y está actualizando la situación continuamente aquí.

Esta lista se actualizó por última vez el 3 de abril a las 12.50 p.m.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A stay-at-home order for the entire state of Kansas will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 30, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Saturday, making it one of at least 20 states to ask its residents to conduct only essential business. 

The executive order, which will last at least until April 19, is meant to slow the spread of coronavirus. Kansas has surpassed 250 cases of COVID-19 — including two military personnel, one from Fort Riley and one from Fort Leavenworth — and has five deaths. 

Jodi Fortino / KCUR 89.3

Although it was set to close its retail stores on Friday evening because of the coronavirus pandemic, Nebraska Furniture Mart’s sprawling distribution center in Kansas City, Kansas, will remain open for business.

The 650,000-square-foot warehouse fulfills online and telephone orders and employs approximately 400 people who work in three shifts, with 100 to 150 working at any given time.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

After initially lagging behind many other parts of the country, the COVID-19 case numbers in Kansas and Missouri are now rising rapidly each day.

While this undoubtedly means more people are getting sick, it’s unclear exactly what the infection trends are in both states. That's due to inconsistent testing and lack of complete numbers.

The two states' total cases, as reported on Friday:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As COVID-19 begins to spread in the Kansas City area, health care workers and hospitals say they are struggling with a lack of resources as they try to prepare for a potentially huge demand for care.

Citing concerns about shortage of both medical equipment and staff, the Missouri State Medical Association this week sent a letter to Gov. Mike Parson urging him to issue a statewide “shelter-in-place” order.

Bigstock

Amid concerns that prisoners face a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus, a public interest law firm wants Missouri to release prisoners whose parole has been revoked — in many cases on technicalities.

In an emergency motion filed Wednesday, the Chicago-based MacArthur Justice Center says that prisons and jails are notoriously unsanitary and are not isolated environments, with attorneys, correctional officers, medical personnel and visitors entering and leaving on a daily basis.

Google Maps

Although only “essential” businesses are supposed to remain open under stay-at-home orders now in effect in the Kansas City area, some businesses appear to have adopted a loose definition of the term.

The 700,000-square-foot Guitar Center distribution center in the Northland is one of them. The sprawling facility employs hundreds of people to fulfill online orders for musical instruments and musical gear.

Evan Vucci / Associated Press

A jump in prescriptions being issued for drugs touted as possible treatments for COVID-19 has prompted two Missouri health agencies to issue guidelines concerning their use.

In a joint statement, the Missouri Board of Pharmacy and the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts said concerns had been raised that “this activity may lead to stockpiling of medication, inappropriate use and potential drug shortages for patients with a legitimate need.”

courtesy of Kate E. Burke

Kansas City fashion designers, fabric artists, home sewers and crafters are diving into their own supplies to help meet the demand for masks for health care workers.

As is happening elsewhere around the country, health care and first-responder agencies in the metro area have begun asking for donations to overcome shortages as they deal with the spread of COVID-19. 

CDC Coronavirus Testing Decision Likely To Haunt Nation For Months To Come

Mar 23, 2020
Alex Brandon / Associated Press

As the novel coronavirus snaked its way across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early February distributed 200 test kits it had produced to more than 100 public health labs run by states and counties nationwide.

Each kit contained material to test a mere 300 to 400 patients. And labs, whether serving the population of New York City or tiny towns in rural America, apparently received the same kits.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

Last week, Gov. Laura Kelly made her state’s children the first in the country sent home for the rest of the school year. This weekend, she took unilateral action to clear the way for more telemedicine, to temporarily license more health care workers and to let heavier trucks move on Kansas highways.

The orders, Kelly’s office said in a news release, “will make sure Kansas families can access needed care and supplies until we have weathered this storm.”

KU Hospital

As the coronavirus continues its relentless spread, hospitals are making tough decisions about postponing or canceling elective procedures.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommended that providers consider a range of factors in determining whether to postpone surgery or other procedures. They include patient risk, urgency of the procedure, bed availability, staffing and the availability of personal protective equipment.

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the current coronavirus outbreak, and the disruptions to daily life can take a toll on someone’s mental health.

Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas spokesman Eric Littwiler says clinicians there are, understandably, seeing a lot of cases of anxiety and depression.

"I think people are feeling like the world they’re used to is just shifting underneath their feet," he says, "and that creates that anxiety and creates that depression even for people who haven’t dealt with it in the past."

Andy Marso / KCUR

Johnson County health officials scaled back testing for coronavirus this week after determining that the county has community transmission.

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says the state needs to prioritize testing in other places due to limited test supplies. But some public experts say the move will limit efforts to combat COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated, 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus being diagnosed in Kansas and Missouri is going up, and one elderly man in Wyandotte County has died from the disease.

File photo by Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Normally, most people wouldn’t give much thought to a minor cough or slight fever in March. But March 2020 hasn’t been like other years.

In the midst of a global pandemic, signs of illness can seem alarming, but Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health Systems, says a little knowledge and common sense can help, whatever the illness might turn out to be.

If a cough or fever have you worried, here’s what you need to know.

Viracor Eurofins

A clinical diagnostics lab in Lee’s Summit has developed a test for the novel coronavirus and says it's more than 99% accurate.

Viracor Eurofins, which was founded in 1983, says it's capable of performing more than 1,000 tests per day and returning results the same day. The test will allow clinicians to expand testing to patients who currently don't meet the eligibility criteria for public laboratory testing established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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