Kiesa Kay
Special to The Gardner News
The Johnson County Commissioners decided March 30 to take a pro-active response to COVID-19 by offering testing for a random sample of 3,000 to 5,000 people in the county.
“We are not trying to test everybody in the county,” explained Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the department of health and environment. “That is neither feasible nor necessary. Additional testing is necessary to understand what’s going on in the county to help us make informed decisions, so we can identify positives cases, see who their contacts are, and take action to prevent the spread of the virus.”
In a move that demonstrates commitment to public health and determination to set a high standard for county integrity, the Johnson County Commissioners voted unanimously to spend up to $400,000 on this testing.
“We have inadequate resources, and we must use resources effectively,” Areola stated. “Tests up to now have been high risk patients who are hospitalized.”
Messages will be sent to a randomized sample pool within the community with a short survey and invitation for testing, he said. Areola, who joined the staff in March 2020, worked for 17 years with the Metro Public Health Department of Nashville/Davis County. As past president for the African Society for Toxicological Sciences with degrees from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Southern University, and Obafemi Awolowo University, he has extensive experience in public health. He and his staff have contacted every lab in Johnson County for data on performing the COVID-19 tests, and the limiting factor appears to be supplies and test kits.
Dr. Ryan Jacobson, EMS assistant medical director, said that five to seven percent of the requested supplies had been received from the federal government as the area gears up for a surge. The service area in Kansas has 172 adult intensive care unit beds and 482 medical surge beds that are non-ICU. On Monday, 57 patients had been admitted with COVID-19 and 55 more were under investigation.
“This disease is transmitted by large droplets, not tiny aerosols, so t-shirt material protecting from coughing is better than no protection,” Jacobson asserted.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary has said that he anticipated that cases in Kansas would double every three to four days. Emergency medical technicians use a system to determine the number of beds and ventilators in all hospitals in their area.
“We do not want to take a patient who needs a ventilator to a place that does not have one working,” Jacobson said. “Individual hospitals are all doing contingency planning and working around the clock to come up with surge plans.”
Area hospitals have been cancelling elective surgeries in an effort to conserve resources. The doctors complimented the county officials, saying that their determination to get ahead of the curve by doing testing of random samples demonstrated preventative foresight.
“To say it would be over in a week or two would be inaccurate,” Areola said. “It’s a very infectious virus that is spreading. Consequences of not addressing that would be huge.”
While Governor Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home order is in effect through April 21, touch-free golf is approved by the governor’s legal counsel. While religious services are considered an essential service, groups of more than 10 are not allowed, and there is some clarification necessary, said Cindy Dunham, legal counsel.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran previously stated that $1.9 million in grants would be released to states, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will receive $118,000 to fight COVID-19.
The mental health crisis line operates 24/7 now, at 913 268 0156, and has experienced a 20 percent increase in calls.
They further discussed child care licensing, with reminder that any individual providing child care from their own home for more than two unrelated children for twenty hours needed licensing. The COVID-19 hotline was 913 477 8361.