Threat of coronavirus has far-reaching effect


Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

The threat of coronavirus has changed many things during the past several days.

This time of year, I am usually arranging my personal schedule so I can watch my favorite basketball team, the KU Jayhawks, as they do battle through the NCAA tournament. But the coronavirus scare has caused colleges, including KU, to cancel its sports activities. That includes Kansas City Kansas Community College which has closed its campus and extended its spring break through March 29; From March 30 through April 10, classes will resume through a virtual delivery. All public and community events through May 20 are canceled, including the annual Mid-America Education Hall of Fame celebration.

Nursing homes and hospitals are limiting visitations. Restaurants and bars will be limited to carryout and delivery of food and drink. President Donald Trump, Gov. Laura Kelly and Mayor David Alvey have all declared states of emergency.

All of these restrictions aim at limiting close human interaction which cause the spread of the coronavirus.

I made a short shopping trip to Walmart in The Plaza at the Speedway on Monday, March 16. There was a rather large crowd of shoppers for a Monday afternoon. The experience was the same at the Price Chopper at the Wyandotte Plaza Shopping Center; neither store had any toilet paper.

For the first time ever, the Board of Directors of Business West will be holding its board meeting on Wednesday, March 18, via a teleconference. The usual meeting place, the Board Room at The Dotte Spot Bar and Grill, is open for only carryout.

Jon Males of Recordnews, a printing and mailing company based in Basehor, reminds his customers in an email about the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Telephone your primary care physician for advice.
  • Reschedule any appointments if you have a fever.
  • Wash hands frequently, throw away tissues as soon as you use them.
  • Stay six feet away from other persons.
  • Wipe down surfaces with disinfectants.

History tells us that the worst pandemic in modern history was in 1918-1919. The “Spanish Flu” afflicted an estimated 500 million persons—about one-third of the world’s population. An estimated 675,000 died in the United States.

It is important to understand the seriousness of the coronavirus. People need to use the common sense guidelines that the CDC suggests.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

UG Commission to hold special session Thursday on COVID-19 and emergency declaration

The Unified Government Commission will hold a special session at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the fifth floor meeting room, City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kansas.

The commission will decide whether to extend the emergency declaration and may take other action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the meeting notice.

Afterward, the UG Commission will convene as the Board of Health for an update on COVID-19 and take action as necessary, the meeting notice stated.

The meeting can be seen on UGTV on Spectrum Cable Channel 2, in HD on Google Fiber Channel 141, online at, and on YouTube.

The proposed resolution would extend the state of emergency through May 18, 2020. A state of emergency was declared here on March 13. At a recent discussion, Mayor David Alvey said the state of emergency allows the Unified Government to access resources that are needed from the state or federal level.

The UG Commission also will consider an amendment to the UG’s ordinances concerning violation of the orders of the health officer or Board of Health.

The proposed amendment reads, “(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to violate, refuse, or fail to comply with a written order of the Health Officer, Board of Health, or Director of Health issued under their respective authorities. (b) A violation this section is a class C misdemeanor.”

Another resolution on the agenda would authorize the county coroner or the UG administrator to appoint one or more deputy coroners if necessary.

Then, the UG Commission will meet as the Board of Health. During that time, the board will hear an update on COVID-19 by Terrie Garrison, interim director of the UG Health Department.

Also, the Board of Health will consider a resolution to ratify and support the emergency public health orders issued by Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer, on March 16 and March 17. Those orders restricted gatherings to 10 or fewer, and also closed restaurants, bars, taverns, movie theaters and casinos. The establishments could continue providing takeout food, but sit-down dining was eliminated to try to reduce gatherings and the spread of COVID-19.

The agenda is online at

Kansas reaches 21 COVID-19 cases, part of KC metro area shifts into mitigation

Kansas has now reached 21 cases of COVID-19, including one more case in Wyandotte County, as of Wednesday morning, according to state health officials.

Of those numbers, 11 were in Johnson County, five in Wyandotte County, two in Leavenworth County, one in Butler County, one in Franklin County and one in Douglas County, according to Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas heath secretary.

In answer to a question at a news conference today, Dr. Norman said if the current rate continues, it is possible for the state to have hundreds of positive cases a month from now. He hoped the restrictions on gatherings, meetings and travel will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The 21 positives included two positive tests from private labs, he added. There also are two out-of-state resident positive cases reported in Kansas from Ford and Miami counties, but not counted in the Kansas numbers because cases are listed by place of residence.

Johnson County has now reached the level of community transmission, Dr. Norman said. Five of the cases in Johnson County were acquired locally and not through travel or contacts, he said.

“This is a fundamental change from how, in a public health perspective, we address this,” he said during a news conference today.

It changes procedures, he added. The testing strategies will change for Johnson County residents who are hospitalized with coronavirus. Residents with mild symptoms should not be tested, he said. Excessive testing puts too much strain on the laboratories and health care providers.

“If we don’t follow the public health guidelines for management of community transmission in counties and states, we will absolutely burn through all our testing supplies, because we will not have enough to do them,” he said.

He advised people with mild symptoms to isolate at home for seven days after the symptoms started. Seventy-two hours after the fever is gone and they have significant improvement, they can go back to their usual lives, he said.

Anyone with more severe symptoms can call their health care provider, he said. The more severe symptoms might include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and a high fever.

Doctors at the University of Kansas Health Systems have also announced that persons with mild symptoms such as a cough and low fever should stay at home and recover there for at least seven days, and call their health care provider if their condition worsens.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will continue to isolate and quarantine, based on changing standards, he said. In a county with widespread disease, isolation and quarantine orders are mandatory, he said.

Kansas currently has 168 ventilators not in use, he said. Hundreds are now in use in the state currently, he added. The state has 102 negative airflow rooms, where the air in the room is not allowed to go into the rest of the building.

The KDHE had 10 requests from counties March 17 to help replenish depleted supplies of masks, face shields, gloves and gowns, he said.

Testing kits are still in short supply, he said. The KDHE has been in conversations with Sen. Jerry Moran and others in the federal delegation to see if they can get 2,500 patient test kits this weekend. If not, they could be in short supply by the weekend, he added.

The KDHE is receiving 1,500 phone calls a day on the topic of COVID-19, he said. The department is getting outside assistance and a lot of the agency staff are answering phones currently, he added.

Currently the state health agency is testing 130 to 200 samples a day for COVID-19.

Dr. Norman said the Kansans are now back who were on board the Diamond Princess ship that had been detained in a quarantine on the West Coast. Some residents, including seven households in five counties, arrived by State Department aircraft, and were escorted by state health staff to their homes where they are under quarantine for several days, he said. None of them are ill now, he said.

To view the news conference on video, visit the KDHE Facebook page.

The Unified Government has a COVID-19 website at

KDHE has a website for more information on COVID-19, at

The CDC also has a COVID-19 website at