public health

Fernando Salazar, File Photo

Public health officials in three Kansas counties say a new state law is hurting their efforts to trace the contacts of people infected with COVID-19 by making it easier for them to refuse to cooperate.

Public health departments often rely on employers to find out who has been in close contact with those infected, but the coronavirus law that was approved in June says "third parties," such as employers and event hosts, must get consent from those who tested positive for COVID-19 and close contacts in order to share their information to public health agencies.

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Most health experts continue to advise people to stay home to avoid catching Covid-19, or to maintain social distancing when out in public.

Lynn Hutchinson doesn’t have those options.

TOPEKA, Kansas — County health departments in Kansas lacked the resources and manpower to swiftly ramp up “boots-on-the-ground” work when the coronavirus pandemic hit, new research suggests.

The work by researchers at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita sheds light on the state’s preparedness for the pandemic. Local health departments do much of the frontline work gathering test samples from sick people and tracking down others who may have been exposed.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — Contact tracing is a key component of stopping the spread of infectious or sexually transmitted diseases, and has been for years. It’s also the linchpin in Kansas counties’ plans to effectively reopen and isolate cases of the coronavirus.

“The volume has become quite a bit larger than anything we’ve really ever dealt with,” Johnson County epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh said.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service/File photo

State and local orders still in place for checking the spread of the novel coronavirus in Kansas are facing legal challenges from the state’s attorney general and business owners.

Fernando Salazar, File Photo

Now that Kansas is slowly reopening, health officials are preparing for what could be a busy few months of COVID-19 investigations.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Local business leaders and health care experts are at odds over when — and how — Sedgwick County should begin to ease its coronavirus lockdown.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The more Kansas tests people for the coronavirus, the clearer it becomes that black Kansans are being disproportionately affected — a sobering trend that is true in communities across the U.S.

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

The data mirrors trends seen in across U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit, as well as other states.

Johnson County health officials scaled back testing for coronavirus this week after determining that the county has community transmission.

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says the state needs to prioritize testing in other places due to limited test supplies. But some public experts say the move will limit efforts to combat COVID-19.

Normally, most people wouldn’t give much thought to a minor cough or slight fever in March. But March 2020 hasn’t been like other years.

In the midst of a global pandemic, signs of illness can seem alarming, but Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health Systems, says a little knowledge and common sense can help, whatever the illness might turn out to be.

If a cough or fever have you worried, here’s what you need to know.

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