Kansas Department of Health and Environment | KCUR

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

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 2:10 p.m. March 31.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This post will be updated periodically with information about the coronavirus in the Kansas City metro. For more information about the outbreak and how it is impacting life in the Kansas City area, read the FAQ.

Stay up to date with local coronavirus news. Subscribe to our morning news email here.

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

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.

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.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

Kansas state officials “strongly recommended” on Sunday that all K-12 schools close for the coming week, and said they’re looking at the potential of finishing the school year online.

The temporary closure will “give educators time to make plans for the safest learning environment possible,” Gov. Laura Kelly said during a news conference, though she acknowledged it’ll be difficult to feed students and provide child care. 

Associated Press

Seven people in Kansas and Missouri have tested positive for coronavirus as of Thursday, with one of those — a man in his 70s living in a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County — dead from the disease. 

The relatively low instances of infection in the region would indicate that so far, the two states seem hardly touched by the growing global pandemic.

File photo by Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Thursday morning declared a 21-day state of emergency in the city to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We’re not trying to be alarmist, we’re not trying to concern folks. What we’re trying to say is how can we make sure that we don’t see a significant impact before we can handle it here in Kansas City,” Lucas said.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Lucas wrote that "all events with more than 1,000 attendees within the city are canceled or delayed until the emergency has been lifted."

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Update: 7:30 p.m.

A 70-year-old man who lived in a long-term care facility in Wyandotte County is the first known death from the new coronavirus in Kansas, state officials said Thursday night.

Kansas also has declared a state of emergency, which gives the government more power to marshal resources and triggers the state's response plan.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

This story was updated at 7 p.m., March 7.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas has its first case of the new coronavirus, officials announced Saturday. 

The Johnson County woman infected with the virus appears to have contracted her illness while traveling in the northeastern United States, state and local public health officials said at a Statehouse news conference early Saturday evening. She was tested earlier this week for COVID-19. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas health officials say the state is ready to deal with the new coronavirus now that Kansans are starting to get sick.

Lawmakers still aren’t ready to move past a dispute on abortion and Medicaid expansion that is blocking progress on both issues.

Host Jim McLean talks with a legislator at the center of that dispute about why he cast a decisive vote against the anti-abortion amendment. 

Also featured on this week’s episode: an interview with the state’s chief health officer on preparations for the coronavirus.

Alex Smith / KCUR

As the community spread of the coronavirus appears to be accelerating in Seattle and other parts of the United States, Kansas City civic leaders and health experts insist the area is prepared for the problem.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and health department head Rex Archer met with police and fire departments and local health providers on Tuesday to coordinate their efforts and encourage local residents to take steps as well.

WICHITA, Kansas — On Aug. 16, the second day of the school year, students in the Burrton district felt the shake of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake. They knew exactly what to do: hide under their desks until it stopped.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Wearing sweaters, small kids (of the goat variety) went springing over hay-lined pens in the Good Karma Micro-Dairy barn in Russell County. Here, Erin and Doug Renard milk goats and cows and make raw cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and gelato.

“As you noticed when you came here, there's no signs,” Erin Renard said. “One of the reasons there's no signs is expense. But the other reason was we couldn't even put 'raw milk' on the sign. Now we can.” 

WICHITA, Kansas — An environmental watchdog group says most states aren’t stepping up to fill the gap left by budget and staff cuts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which could put Kansans at greater risk of exposure to harmful pollutants.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

WICHITA, Kansas — The water coming out of your tap might meet legal standards, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drink — at least according to the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy nonprofit.

EWG found that nearly all of the 870 water utilities in Kansas tested for at least one contaminate above what it considers safe, though most water utilities in the state meet federal standards, which are different than EWG’s. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Aetna Better Health is struggling to keep its Medicaid contract with KanCare, to the point that state officials found fault with Aetna’s recent plan to improve services.

But Kansas lawmakers had two words this week for the company: Keep trying.

The new reality of smoking at Kansas high schools is visible in the parking lots, where used-up Juul pods have taken the place of cigarette butts.

“You can pick up the discarded Juul cartridges all over the concrete,” Andover High School school resource officer Heath Kintzel said of the popular vaping brand. “It’s everywhere.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans powered past objections from conservative leaders in the Kansas House Wednesday to approve Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

Albeit a slightly revised version.

The Kansas House has rejected Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to refinance pension debt. But the new governor says that won't tank the state budget or doom her priorities, including Medicaid expansion. Should expansion come to be, it'll be Health Secretary Lee Norman's job to implement it, and he says it'll get good ROI. 


Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Four transgender residents of Kansas sued the state on Monday, challenging its refusal to allow them to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, argues that Kansas’ policy violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. It also argues that it violates the plaintiffs’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: The state of KanCare.

Since it's creation in 2013, KanCare has received heavy criticism. The privatized Medicaid dispursement program started by former Gov. Sam Brownback has struggled with long processing wait times, bad data collection and lawsuits. Today, administrators of the program discuss the myriad issues they've dealt with already and the ones that remain to be solved.

A contract dispute that could disrupt the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans enrolled in the state’s privatized Medicaid program has landed in court.

Amerigroup, one of three companies that since 2013 has managed the delivery of care to low-income, elderly and disabled through KanCare, is contesting a recent decision by state officials to replace it with Aetna when new contracts take effect in January.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Kansas officials say there is little chance that more than 400,000 Kansans who depend on the state’s Medicaid program will see their services interrupted.

They say they are confident federal officials will approve a critical waiver request before an end-of-the-year deadline.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Given all the controversy about KanCare – Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program – it would be reasonable to expect big crowds at public hearings about renewing the program.

But that wasn’t the case Wednesday when relative handfuls of health care providers and consumers turned out in Topeka for the first in a series of forums scheduled across the state.

The sparse turnout disappointed state officials and legislators who attended.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment must recognize same-sex marriages, allowing gay and lesbian couples the same benefits as others.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree’s decision forbids the state agency from enforcing the now-unconstitutional Kansas law banning same-sex marriage, further clarifying just how Kansas must respond to the new law.

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