Alva Review-Courier -

Gov. Kelly: Kansas is scouring the state for health supplies


Government and health officials are scouring the state for supplies and to determine the number of hospital beds that might be available to respond to the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday.

Kelly said the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic is unique from other disasters because of the speed it is spreading and the length of the crisis, noting the state could be dealing with the pandemic for weeks or months to come.

Kelly, a Democrat, has been critical of President Donald Trump's administration for what she called its lack of preparation for the pandemic and the ineffective distribution of medical supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile. She voiced concern last week that Kansas would run out of protective gear by Tuesday.

Kansas has received 90% of its supplies from the stockpile and has been told it will not receive the final 10%. Distribution of those supplies to counties began during the weekend and should be completed by Tuesday, Kelly said Monday.

However, Kansas has not received any of the millions of gloves, masks, respirators, testing supplies and other health equipment it has requested seven times in the past two weeks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kelly said.

The governor said states across the country are having to compete against one another and the federal government for medical equipment and are facing increasing costs for that equipment.

"It is creating widespread confusion among all the state suppliers and delaying every state's response effort, including Kansas," Kelly said.

Until those supplies become available, Kansas officials have turned to private suppliers and markets it has used during past disasters. It also has sought help from more unusual businesses, such as research labs for testing chemicals, auto body shops for N95 masks and tattoo parlors for nitro gloves.

The effort to find medical supplies comes as the state's number of confirmed cases and deaths increased by nearly 100 from Sunday to Monday. Health officials reported 845 confirmed cases of the coronavirus Monday, up from 747 on Sunday. Twenty-five deaths have been recorded.

Most infected people develop mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within three weeks, such as fever and cough. But older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Dr. Lee Norman, the director of the state health department, said he expected the increase in cases to continue, in part because increased testing available in Kansas. He also said the state and the Army Corps of Engineers are looking for alternative care sites, such as dorms, decommissioned hospitals and nursing home if they become needed. Kelly said the state is prioritizing finding hospital beds that might be available around urban hubs with the most coronavirus cases.

The state has confirmed 11 clusters of coronavirus cases in six counties: Johnson, Wyandotte, McPherson, Coffey, Leavenworth and Sedgwick. Norman said three of the 11 involved church gatherings. With Easter Sunday this weekend, he urged Kansans not to gather in numbers that will put them in danger.

Another area of concern has been the Lansing Correctional Center, where five staff members and three inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. Norman said he has assigned a health department employee to work full time at the state's largest prison to manage the outbreak but he believes the prison is configured in a way to help fight the spread of the disease.


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