County Health Department Orders Quarantines After Positive COVID Diagnoses

By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
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Things just got real.

The first two positive COVID 19 cases in Republic County were confirmed early this week, and Republic County Health Department director Danielle Swanson said more than 50 people are under mandatory quarantine orders who may have had contact with the individuals.

“Right now there is no source of transmission which is kind of scary,” she told Republic County Commissioners Monday. “We’re looking at potential community spread. It’s a very large investigation right now as we work to find out where it came from and who all has potentially been exposed.”

Swanson said the first person diagnosed with COVID 19 is hospitalized, but not locally.

Swanson said a primary contact is a person who has been within 6’ of an infected person for 10 minutes or more. The majority of the contact happened the last week of March, she said, before dining rooms in restaurants were closed. People who may have been in contact with the first individual five days prior to the onset of symptoms have been quarantined, she said.

Upon notification of the positive case around noon Saturday, Swanson said her staff, assisted by Republic County EMS personnel, manned the phones until after 10 p.m. to alert potential contacts and explain the mandatory quarantine order.

Swanson said anyone who believes they may have had contact with a positive case of COVID 19 but hasn’t been contacted by the health department should call her office for more information at (785) 527-5671.

On Monday, Swanson implemented a stricter travel restriction than the one put in place by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Along with the statewide quarantines ordered for people who traveled on cruise ships, to certain states and locations, the order requires anyone who has traveled to Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas, Leavenworth, Sedgwick, Coffey and Shawnee isolate and quarantine themselves for 14 days. These counties have widespread community transmission. Mitchell and Jewell counties have enacted similar quarantine guidelines for those Kansas counties.

According to the KDHE statistics, a total of 14 people have been tested for potential COVID in Republic County since March 25. In Jewell County, five people have been tested and one positive result; in Cloud County, 16 tests have been administered with three positive results. Washington and Marshall counties did not have a positive case reported as of Tuesday, although 10 people had been tested in Washington County and 33 in Marshall.

‘Skirt The Restrictions’

Ferrell said he has been inundated with phone calls from people who want to “skirt the restrictions”.

“It can keep you up at night to wonder what would happen if (an infected person) came in contact with a group of first responders,” Ferrell said. “Just this one case shows the potential of the virus to spread to many people.

“This just got really real.”

Officials say the calls they field range from people demanding to know the name of the infected person (which they cannot divulge under federal HIPPA laws), to complaints about the quarantine, why they can’t use self-serve drink dispensers, to what might happen to people who plan to come to the area to turkey hunt.

Swanson said she often gets questions about why liquor stores can remain open as an essential business.

“Because alcoholics depend on alcohol, and if it’s not available to them, they start to go through detox and may get sick enough to need life support,” she said. “Right now, ventilators are few and far between and we need to save them for COVID patients.”

State Distributes PPE

Republic County Emergency Manager Raymond Raney said he has taken a third delivery of Personal Protective Equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile maintained by the Kansas Army National Guard. That includes masks, gowns, gloves and bed sheets. Items are distributed to counties based on population, he said. Those items will be made available to the hospital, clinics, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, health department and EMS, he said.

Although hand sanitizer is in short supply, he said he planned to get a delivery of sanitizer that is being manufactured at Great Plains Manufacturing in Assaria on Monday.

Raney said that a new cell phone alert system that is just in its infancy was deployed Saturday to alert some 600 residents of the first case.

Raney said the purpose for registering your cell number is so Republic County 911 Communications Center may quickly notify residents of an emergency. As more people have exchanged their landline phone for a cell phone, it has become more difficult to contact people in the event of an emergency that affects their family.

More information to register for the alerts is available elsewhere in this edition of The Telescope.

Tighter Screening At Clinic

On Monday the Belleville Medical Clinic introduced new screening procedures for patients.

“First and foremost, we are doing our best to help you in your times of need and stand beside all who seek care,” said a clinic announcement. “We want to be available to you. At the same time, we do have many who are at-risk in this community and we are doing all we can to protect them as well as the healthcare providers while adhering to CDC guidelines.”

Patients must have an appointment to enter the building and wear a mask if possible. Patients will be asked to notify staff:

  • If they have traveled more than 30 miles from Republic County in the last two weeks;
  • If they have a fever or a cough or been around anyone with a fever or cough in the last two weeks; and
  • If the patient has been around anyone on the mandatory quarantine or self-isolation list, or has been on the list, in the last two weeks.

The clinic said plans to implement a new telehealth service soon.