This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to butlercountytimesgazette.com
COVID-19 news seems to change by the hour, and it changed dramatically and quickly in Butler County March 13.
The county became host to the sixth COVID-19 case identified in Kansas.
The presumptive positive case was identified with testing sent to KDHE’s Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories (KHEL). These results will be verified by the CDC lab but will be treated as a positive unless determined otherwise.
The case is in a Butler County man in his 70s who had travel outside the U.S. KDHE continues to work with the local health department and CDC to identify and contact people who may have come into contact with the individual while they were infectious and will monitor them for fever and respiratory symptoms. The patient is in isolation. No other information will be provided about the patient.
"Kansans should remain vigilant," Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary said. "It’s important to live your lives, but it’s also important to take basic precautions like exercising good hygiene practices. It is up to each of us to do our part."
People should exercise vigilance when attending large public gatherings, particularly those people over age 60 and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions. There are mass events guidance documents from the Centers from Disease Control available on KDHE’s website, www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.
If you have symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath and believe you may have had contact or have had contact with someone with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider.
You may also call the KDHE phone bank at 1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF) today Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. For more information about COVID-19, visit KDHE’s website and Frequently Asked Questions at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Less than 24 hours before the case, Jamie Downs, Director of the Butler County Health Department told the Times-Gazette there were no confirmed cases in the county.
"As of this time we have no confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Butler County," said Jamie Downs, Director of the Butler County Health Department. "Each day we're learning something new," Downs said.
On March 12 Downs had a conference call with the Center for Disease Control and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The latter confirmed four current cases in Johnson County, Kansas; one prior and three new cases as of that morning.
Later that night, Kansas announced the first death as result of the virus, upping the state total to five cases.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website, the March 10, 2020 Public Update on the pandemic lists the following 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Kansas Test Results: Positive (confirmed) 1; Negative, 25 ; Persons Under Investigation (PUI) pending test results, 13; close contacts being monitored, 3. KDHE will update its website with the number of PUI's by 6 p.m. Monday-Friday for the moment.
For more information, please visit the toolkit and Frequently Asked Questions at kdheks.gov/coronavirus or e-mail directly to COVIDemail@example.com.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website is cdc.gov/coronavirus.2019-ncov/index.html.
Downs recommends concerned Augusta residents call their primary care provider if experiencing symptoms of fever over 100.4, dry coughing or shortness of breath, and letting them know of any recent traveling. Also, residents can call their doctor's offices ahead and do screenings over the phone.
"Reducing the number of people they come into contact with if they have this virus is good for everybody."
"We did go through something like this with H1N1 in 2009," Downs said. "People were panicking and it resolved itself. Now H1N1 is included in the annual flu vaccine."
"Do what you need to do to protect yourself. If you're near someone who is sick, get up and move. Leave. Stay away from big crowds," Downs said. "Wash your hands. Only people who are symptomatic need to be wearing a face mask."
But at the Augusta Walmart Supercenter, it's a different story.
The parking lot was full and shopping carts ranged from just a few regular items to others stacked high with what were apparently preparatory items in case a quarantine is imposed or the items become out of stock.
Chandra Philpott of Douglass pushed a card loaded beyond capacity and is readying herself in case the pandemic worsens.
"I feel a little scared, just not knowing what's gonna happen," Philpott said. "I budgeted up to $500."
She noticed even items like Ramen noodles are becoming scarce on the shelves-- and was happy to have scored one of the last packs.
Other items in her cart included canned goods and boxed foods, cleaning supplies. But not toilet paper. Philpott bought that the day prior. She is also a Butler Community College student, waiting to hear if classes will be canceled and go online soon.
Kathy Cornett of Severy is down to four rolls of toilet paper, so chose to shop. She had no luck however, as it is currently out of stock at the time of this interview.
"I think people are kinda silly," Cornett said. "It's gonna get better. We're not going to be in our homes forever."
As a retired former Emergency Medical Technician of 12 years, she is not currently alarmed about the risk after treating so many patients over the years and being exposed herself as a medical worker.
"Don't change your lifestyle, but wash your hands," Cornett said.
Deborah Jarrell of Augusta canceled her prior travel plans in order to feel safe.
"People are dying from this. I wanted to go on a cruise, but I'm putting that off," Jarrell said. "People are speculating a lot on whether they're going to get it; this is a virus. I've stayed at home for a couple weeks. You take everything into consideration."
As far as her shopping list, she is stocking up on some items; meat, bread, especially her favorite peanut butter crackers. And plenty of dog food.
However Jarrell admits, "I don't understand why (people) are worried about toilet paper."
Randy Kutscher, Asssitant Manager of the Augusta Wal-Mart, has been with the company 35 years and this store for two years. The store gets daily shipments of the items available; some cannot be stocked due to a manufacturing issue, Kutscher said.
"It's just gotten busier and busier," he said. "Anytime there's an outbreak, it changes the public's buying habits. You've got people who are hoarding toilet paper, food supplies, canned goods. Last week it was face masks and hand sanitizer."
Other coveted items include sanitizer wipes, water, alcohol and peroxide and disinfectant spray, he said.
"Just keep checking with us. Tomorrow it might be re-stocked."