Updated Daily: What We Know So Far About COVID-19 In Kansas

Sep 23, 2020

With the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic changing rapidly, we’re compiling news and information here about COVID-19. For more community updates, reopening plans and public health orders, check out our COVID-19 Resource Center.

How many known cases are in Kansas?

As of Sept. 23, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed 55,226 cases of COVID-19 (+1,267 since last report), and 621 deaths (+21). The positive test rate is 7.4%. KDHE gives a live update on its Facebook page every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 p.m.

More than 437,000 other people have tested negative for COVID-19. 

Sedgwick County, which includes confirmed cases not finalized in KDHE's count, says as of Sept. 23 there have been 8,149 confirmed cases (+42 since last report) and 85 deaths. The positive test rate is 4.8%. The county no longer reports active cases or recoveries. 

The U.S. has had more than 6.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 200,000 deaths. 

I think I might be infected. How do I get tested?

You can’t just go to a doctor’s office and ask to be tested. A health professional will need to determine whether you qualify — and even if your doctor determines you should be tested, it doesn’t mean it’ll happen.

Here's a handy breakdown of how testing currently works in Kansas.

But if you are experiencing symptoms (the CDC expanded its list) and think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, contact your regular doctor to discuss whether testing might be needed. (Don’t show up unannounced, say health care providers.)

If you don’t have a regular doctor, Wesley Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Lowell Ebersole says you can visit one of the hospital’s facilities for screening — but again, call ahead first.

Here's what KU Med's infectious disease expert says to do if you feel sick.

The Sedwick County Health Department is offering free tests to residents who are experiencing symptoms, or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. (Tests had been available to anyone wishing to get one, but the county has temporarily suspended asymptomatic testing due to "increasing and overwhelming interest.")

First responders, health care workers, people who work in long-term care facilities and a few other specific job categories can get also tested by the county even if they have no symptoms. 

Some community health clinics in Wichita also are offering free testing by appointment, including HealthCore Clinic.

Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne says the coronavirus reached the threshold for community spread in the county, meaning health officials have identified five or more cases of COVID-19 that can't be traced back to travel or to someone who has tested positive.

The health department has been so overwhelmed with cases that it handed off contact tracing to KDHE. In August, the county health department announced a new website where people can get their COVID-19 test results, instead of waiting for a phone call or letter. 

How do we prevent the spread of the virus?

Basically, health leaders are recommending good hygiene, social distancing, and face masks.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order on July 2 mandating that all Kansans wear masks in public, with several exemptions, including children under 5, people with impaired hearing, and people with medical or other conditions that make wearing a mask problematic.

On July 8, county Health Officer Garold Minns issued a mandatory mask order to go into effect on July 10, effectively going against an earlier vote by Sedgwick County commissioners not to adopt Kelly's statewide order as a mandate. The commission has the authority to override or modify Minns' order.

As of July 3, masks are mandated in Wichita, with exceptions, and first-time violations could receive a $25 penalty. On Aug. 11, the city voted to extend the order through Sept. 8. 

Sedgwick County is currently following the governor's reopening plan as a "guideline," with no enforcement. County Health Officer Garold Minns has recommended the county stay in Phase 2 of the plan due to increasing cases. After closing bars and nightclubs in late July, the county is allowing them to reopen at 50% capacity beginning Aug. 22. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol must close at 11 p.m. The county's latest health order is in effect until Sept. 8.

KDHE still recommends staying home when possible to avoid exposure to the virus, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding touching your face. 

 

What have schools done in response?

After Kelly ordered all schools in the state closed in March, students finished their semesters from home.

Wichita Public Schools started classes on Sept. 8, with all middle and high school students taking classes virtually for the first nine weeks of the semester. After initially cancelling all in-person activities, the Wichita school board is now allowing fall sports and other extracurriculars to take place

Many state universities also returned to campuses this fall, with precautions. Here's a look at how schools across Kansas are reopening their campuses.

What is the coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines coronaviruses as "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases."

The “novel coronavirus” is the seventh known coronavirus the U.S. has dealt with, says Dr. Margaret Hagan with Infectious Disease Consultants in Wichita. Four strains are mild and basically cause the common cold. One strain causes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that broke out in 2002; another causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a more severe illness that broke out in 2012.

The most recent strain of the coronavirus can lead to Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fever and coughing. 

How does the virus spread, and who’s at risk of getting it?

Coronaviruses spread primarily through respiratory droplets — like through coughing and sneezing, says Sedgwick County epidemiologist Kaylee Hervey. Anyone can be at risk of infection.

Hervey says much as 80 percent of people who are infected (and infectious) won’t exhibit any symptoms.

“That in a sense makes it more dangerous than the flu in that asymptotic people may be spreading it,” she told an Engage ICT: Democracy On Tap panel.

State data shows black Kansans are three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than white Kansans, and more than seven times more likely to die from the virus. Latinos are also about three times as likely as white people to test positive for COVID-19. 

Other information on COVID-19

We’ll be updating this page daily as more information becomes available. Other valuable websites for you to stay informed include:

Have any questions you want to see answered by one of KMUW’s reporters? Send us an email at news@kmuw.org.