Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM

Update: These Kansas counties are ordering residents to stay home

Posted Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM
 Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service
Erica Hunzinger / Kansas News Service

Editor's note: On Tuesday, Sedgwick County joined five other Kansas counties and issued a stay-at-home order for their 500,000-plus residents to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The emergency order is scheduled to begin on Wednesday and last 30-days.


Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE — Six Kansas counties are ordering residents to stay home unless they’re buying groceries, getting health care or carrying out other essential tasks.

The orders apply in Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth, Douglas, Miami and Doniphan counties. Gov. Laura Kelly said she’s not ready to issue her own statewide shelter-in-place order, but that could change.

Six Kansas counties have issued stay-at-home orders. Others are considering them.
Six Kansas counties have issued stay-at-home orders. Others are considering them.

After all, the state’s latest projections suggest the number of COVID-19 cases could grow five-fold in the next week.

“The crisis continues to evolve by the hour,” she told reporters on Monday, “a statewide stay-at-home order may indeed become unavoidable.”

For now, Kelly said, she’s limiting all public gatherings statewide to 10 people — a drop from the 50-person cap she had already set.

“We are starting to see serious cases in every age group, not just among our seniors,” she said. “If we all do our part now, we can get this under control much more quickly, which will lead to more lives saved.”

Kansas had about 80 known cases of COVID-19 when she spoke, but health officials expected that number to hit between 300 and 400 over the next seven to 10 days.

Only a small fraction of the population has been tested. So the true number of Kansans with the virus will be higher.

Wyandotte, Johnson, Leavenworth and Douglas counties (and nearby Missouri counties Jackson, Clay and Platte) announced their stay-at-home orders over the weekend. Those start Tuesday and run to April 24.

Miami and Doniphan counties followed suit. Miami County’s order starts Wednesday and lasts until April 23. Doniphan’s starts Thursday and runs through April 6.

Sedgwick County commissioners have approved a similar order that isn’t finalized yet

 Lawrence's iconic Mass Street bars and restaurants are among the many businesses closed. Credit Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service
Lawrence's iconic Mass Street bars and restaurants are among the many businesses closed. Credit Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Health officials have made clear they saw little choice, given that seemingly healthy people are carrying the virus.

“There is emerging evidence” from Johnson and other counties “of transmission by pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people,” Douglas County’s order says.

Even with schools and dine-in restaurants already closed, Douglas officials worry it’s not enough to prevent a wave of seriously ill people from overwhelming the health system. In that scenario, Kansas hospitals would run out of ventilators and beds for patients, and protective gear for workers.

The county’s stay-home order requires many businesses to close, though gas stations, banks and certain others will stay open.

Taking your pet to the vet is okay. Going to a friend’s house for dinner isn’t.

Going for a jog is okay, but if you prefer a local gym, you’re out of luck.

Douglas County said the strategy “is even more important in the context of limited testing capacity, as is the case in the Kansas City area.”

Johnson County was the first Kansas county with confirmed community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Health officials there have scaled back testing.

Kansas City area residents and public officials are frustrated with the lack of easy testing access, though at least one local clinic has launched drive-through testing for patients with doctor referrals or who have first contacted the clinic’s hotline.

Last Friday, the Kansas health secretary said his agency would likely run out of test kits within a day. Over the weekend, 500 more kits arrived, which officials hoped would be enough for this week.

However, the state health department will focus on testing health care workers and first responders who have been exposed to COVID-19 or show symptoms.

“Spain has about 10% of its cases in health care workers,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Early testing is part of the state’s strategy to avoid the same trend.

The state’s other priorities include testing patients in situations where a cluster of people all came down with COVID-19 symptoms, or involving group settings such as nursing homes.

People who don’t meet the state health department’s criteria can still seek testing through commercial labs by seeing their primary care provider.

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 [email protected] org.

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Mar 24, 2020 1:48 PM
Virus outbreak poses massive challenges for US charities
The pandemic stopped the annual Girl Scout cookie sale. Above is Alliance, NE councilwomen Annora Bentley with Girl Scouts in Box Butte County. 

NEW YORK (AP)— With its global scope and its staying power, the coronavirus outbreak poses unprecedented challenges for charities and nonprofit groups that rely on donations.

The American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to the cancellation of nearly 2,700 blood drives. The Girl Scouts' annual cookie sale — vital to the group's finances — has been disrupted by a top-level plea to halt in-person sales.

And a 21-member coalition of major nonprofits is pleading with Congress to allocate $60 billion so charities can keep their staff on the job and ramp up assistance programs.

The CEO of one of those groups, Brian Gallagher of United Way Worldwide, has worked with the charity since 1981, engaging in its response to the 9/11 attacks, the Ebola threat, Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

He said the COVID-19 outbreak has no parallel: "It's as if a natural disaster is hitting in slow motion just about every country on Earth."

Already, foundations and other major donors have contributed more than $1.9 billion to combat the outbreak, according to Candid, a New York-based nonprofit that tracks philanthropic giving.

The overall total, including donations from individuals, is surely far higher. Yet nonprofit leaders fear that the needs arising from the outbreak will outstrip even the possibility of massive future giving, let alone a possible drop in giving if a recession takes hold.

“Even if we get this virus under control, there will be several months of recovery for many people,” said Patricia McIlreavy, president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. “Business will have closed, many families will have exhausted every reserve.”

Among the major charities bracing for future challenges is the Salvation Army, which says it annually receives about $2 billion in public support to serve about 23 million people living in poverty.

“We expect that service number to rise exponentially in the coming months," requiring "tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to support our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Dale Bannon, the faith-based organization’s community relations and development secretary.”

He said the Salvation Army, like many other charities, has been forced to cancel numerous fundraising events because of the outbreak. It is now focusing on online fundraising operations.

Canceled blood drives have been devastating to the American Red Cross, which provides about 40% of the nation’s blood supply.

In a statement Wednesday, the organization estimated that there have been 86,000 fewer blood donations in recent weeks because of the wave of blood drive cancellations at workplaces, colleges and other venues as people were told to work or study from home and practice social distancing.

Patients being treated in hospitals for the coronavirus do not generally need blood transfusions, but the worsening blood shortage could affect surgery and cancer patients and victims of car accidents.

Anticipating that blood drive cancellations will continue, the Red Cross pleaded for potential donors to support drives that do take place or for donors to visit its blood-donation facilities.

The group outlined additional safety precautions being taken, including checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter locations and requiring staff to change gloves each time they interact with a different donor.

For the Girl Scouts of the USA, calling for a halt to in-person cookie sales was momentous, given that the sales net roughly $800 million annually and are the core of the organization’s fundraising.

Girls who had been selling cookies at booths outside stores and other locations were asked to focus on online sales instead.

“The risk of interaction with large crowds is just too great,” said the Girl Scouts’ CEO, Sylvia Acevedo.

The Girl Scouts are asking their corporate supporters to consider making bulk cookie purchases. A spokeswoman, Valerie Geiss, said it would be several months before the financial outcome of the sales campaign is known.

Many local Girl Scout gatherings across the country have been suspended, though some units are meeting online. The Washington-based Girl Scouts of Nation’s Capital said it will be hosting more than 40 “virtual troop meetings” next week, potentially serving about 5,000 girls.

The Girl Scouts were among the 21 nonprofits appealing to congress on Thursday for the $60 billion infusion of support for charitable organizations.

Their appeal said America’s charities employ 12 million workers, many of them working on the front lines of the coronavirus response.

“The financial impact of the crisis has put the very survival of many essential service providers at risk,” said Steven C. Preston, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. “Charities are our society’s shock absorber when crisis hits.”

At the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, McIlreavy says there has been a surge of requests from would-be donors seeking guidance on how to give effectively in response to the pandemic.

‘‘Folks just want to know the money is going somewhere where it's actually going to help someone,” she said.

Her center urges donors to be wary of misinformation and do thorough research of charities before making gifts. It identifies key areas that could interest donors: urgent medical response needs, long-term medical research and assistance to vulnerable people in the U.S. or abroad.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

For the United Way, a current priority is to strengthen and expand the 211 network that helps people who call the number to connect with providers of urgently needed social services.

Gallagher said 211 specialists have answered about 12 million requests annually, and he predicts there will be an additional 200,000 calls per day in coming weeks because of the outbreak.

Looking broadly, Gallagher believes there will be a surge in charitable giving for the next few months, and then a downturn as a weak economy takes a toll.

Big charities like United Way will get through it, Gallagher said. “The smaller nonprofits — houses of worship, soup kitchens — they will struggle."