Rex Archer | KCUR

Rex Archer

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.”

Screengrab from City of Kansas City, Missouri

This story was updated March 6, 2020 at 5:08 p.m. to include a response from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

During a week of growing fears about the spread of the coronavirus, Kansas City health officials struggled to communicate clearly about the nature of the city's ability to test residents.

In a briefing to the Kansas City Council on Thursday morning, Rex Archer, head of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, said he wanted to make something clear: The city, so far, hadn’t received any of the kits it had requested to test for the new coronavirus.

Alex Smith / KCUR

This story was updated March 6, 2020 at 12:15 p.m. 

Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City Health Department, says his office currently has just five kits to test for possible cases of the new coronavirus.

That’s despite an announcement Tuesday evening from Vice President Mike Pence, who said “any American can be tested” for the virus.

Pence admitted to reporters Thursday that demand for the kits exceeds supply. 

“That created a real challenge when the vice president told everybody they could get tested,” Archer told the city council Thursday.

Associated Press

The possibility of the new coronavirus spreading in the U.S. has alarmed many people, but Kansas City-area health officials say they are prepared — to a point.

Associated Press

Kansas health officials are waiting for test results after a patient in Lawrence reported symptoms of the coronavirus.

Local health officials are now more closely monitoring the possible spread of the virus.

"Diseases are just an airplane ride away,"  said Nancy Tausz, health services division director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said the test kit from Lawrence has been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Free Hot Soup Facebook page

Depending on whom you ask, health department officials on Sunday either stopped an unlicensed group from illegally handing out potentially bacteria-ridden food or destroyed the property of some “friends” having a “picnic.”

According to official documents, the Kansas City Health Department stopped volunteers of Free Hot Soup Kansas City from handing out food at several Kansas City parks because they lacked the required food handling permits. The food was seized and discarded or was destroyed with bleach.

Rex Archer and Alex Garza
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

The greatest threat to public health in the face of bioterrorism, viral pandemics and natural disasters may actually be less of a headline-grabber: An insufficient budget.

Speaking on KCUR’s Up to Date on Friday, the former chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that while various programs are in place to protect against biological weapons and disease outbreaks, the system could still break down at the state and local level.

Kansas City Health Department

Kansas City has received national recognition for its wide-ranging and collaborative efforts to improve public health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced Wednesday at its headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, that Kansas City was a recipient of a 2015 RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

“It’s an exemplary community for our country in terms of thinking about where we all need to go in promoting health,” said Don Schwarz, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Firearms related deaths among Kansas City residents have remained steady over the last decade. While that’s still unsettling, health officials have identified an especially troublesome trend.

Over the last decade, homicide rates have gone down in Kansas City. Even so, about 100 residents are killed each year from guns. That breaks down to about two people every week.