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May 28th, 2022

whitaker county commissionSouthwest Medical Center President and CEO Robert Whitaker talks to Seward County commissioner about preventative measures being taken at the local hospital concerning the coronavirus situation. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Seward County commissioners received the latest updates on local happenings with the COVID-19 virus Monday.

Emergency Management Director Greg Standard said while there are currently no cases in Seward County, four other Kansas counties do have cases, with a total of 11 confirmed cases in the state, including one in Ford County and one death in Northeast Kansas.

Standard said locally, Southwest Medical Center has the ability to collect samples for testing of the coronavirus.

“We have the ability to test people here in Seward County, and they needn’t be concerned that’s not there,” he said. “The test kits are available to get this done.”

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness, and Standard said people should take similar precautions to those with other respiratory illnesses.

“Wash your hands often with soap and water,” he said. “It is a misconception that hand sanitizer is a better method or better means to sanitize your hands. It is less effective than soap and water, whenever possible, that’s what you should use. Do not touch your face or mouth without washing hands first. Wash your hands after covering your cough, sneezing or blowing your nose. Stay home if you are ill or have a fever, and drink plenty of water. Avoid close contact with others, which means being within six feet of another person for longer than 10 minutes. Walking past someone on the street is not an exposure. There’s no science that indicates you can get the disease in that manner.”

Standard then talked about action taken at some of the local health care facilities.

“The nursing homes have pretty well shut down except for extreme cases where people enter into the long-term care facilities,” he said. “That’s for the benefit of those folks inside it. I’d encourage you to contact friends and family there via phone in the meantime, and at some point, those visits will resume I’m sure. The hospital’s also restricting access. There’s only one door that is open. That is the emergency room entrance, and as you go through there, you’ll get treated, and they’ll get you where you need to be.”

Standard said the Centers for Disease Control is recommending for the next week that organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 or more people throughout the U.S. He then reviewed the COVID-19 numbers from the Sunflower State’s neighbors.

“Surrounding states, Colorado has 135 confirmed cases,” he said. “Missouri has six, Nebraska, 18, and Oklahoma, 10. That was as of this morning. It may change slightly, but I don’t think it will change a lot. The school district is going to be taking care of the kids who are out of school, providing meals for them, and there’s a list of locations where that can be picked up on the school’s Web site. They’ve sent that information out to students and parents.”

Seward County Health Department Administrator Martha Brown said testing supplies, while available, are not plentiful at this point.

“We have heard that some of the private labs in the state are going to start doing actual tests once they’ve been collected,” she said. “A private physician, in the next week or so, may be able to send the test without permission from KDHE, but as of right now, unless you have the symptoms of fever and a cough, shortness of breath, I don’t believe anybody is going to give permission for you to be tested. Don’t get scared and worried about there. It’s mainly just for people who are ill.”

Seward County Community College President Dr. Ken Trzaska said a crisis management team was on the campus Monday and made some decisions about what to do at the school concerning coronavirus.

“Fundamentally, we’re considering a shift to complete online,” he said. “We have a lot of protocols and processes we’re going to put into place to try to best serve our students. We started the meeting today with a particular point of why we’re here, and that is to provide access to students and to help them finish their education. Unfortunately, we’re all dealing with something that’s unprecedented, so we put together a plan that’s going to allow us to continue to serve our students, but do it in a way that’s a bit flexible.”

Trzaska said plans are being made on a day-to-day basis at SCCC.

“There’s always 800 different schools of thought on this, but we’re trying to do what we can to be as flexible as we can, but also as realistic and practical as we can,” he said.

SWMC President and CEO Robert Whittaker said while the hospital is limiting visitors, at this time, people can still receive services for medical conditions.

“Those who have ongoing treatment or need to seek treatment outpatient wise, inpatient wise, all of that is still open and available,” he said. “We want the community to be aware those things are still there, so please don’t put off anything you had orders to have some exam or treatment. Please come in, and we’ll take care of that. We’re continuing to operate that way.”

Brady Nordhus of Wheatridge Park Care Center said that facility implemented a no visitor policy last week.

“We are vetting all of our residents and staff members, making sure there’s no temperatures, there’s no signs and symptoms and we are doing all we can to make sure this virus does not come into our building,” she said. “We are also having no communal dining, no group activities. We are doing everything one on one in resident rooms and making sure residents have that social distancing from each other.”

Reid Petty from U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s office said initial reports indicate 80 percent of the people who get coronavirus will likely not need any treatment at all.

“The White House, they’re now urging meetings to not have more than 10 people,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s an official CDC number, but the president himself actually stated he recommends to not have any meetings with 10 or more people.”