Screening patients

Community Physicians Clinic nurses Suzanne Mooradian and Patty Stueve help check in a patient wearing full protective gear.  Patients being seen at the clinic are being screened prior to entering the building. Temperature and pulse readings will be taken, and patients will be screened with a COVID-19 screening questionnaire. Blue Rapids Medical Clinic is also screening patients before entrance to the facility.

Marshall County remained without any positive test results showing coronavirus by Tuesday afternoon, although health officials say it will show up here at some point.

“We’ve been increasing testing for patients with symptoms of fever and respiratory concerns, combined with travel history to certain areas, or direct contact with confirmed positive COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Shane Thoreson, Community Memorial Healthcare chief of medical staff.

“We’ve completed over 20 tests since the state testing criteria was expanded and testing supplies became more available late last week.

“Average turnaround time for results is four to seven days. As of this statement, all returned tests for Marshall County residents have been negative.”

Between 15 and 20 tests were pending Tuesday afternoon, Thoreson said.

All testing for the county is being conducted through the CMH clinics or emergency department. Marshall County Health Department receives testing records as they are returned.

Suspect symptoms?

If people suspect they may have symptoms, they should call their doctor prior to visiting the clinic for testing, and wait for instruction, CMH spokeswoman Ashley Kracht said.

If patients have extreme symptoms and are struggling to breathe, they should call the CMH emergency room prior to arrival, 785-562-4389.

Spread in Kansas

By Tuesday afternoon, Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 98 coronavirus cases in Kansas, including two deaths. The age range of cases was from 7 to 90 years old with a median age of 52, KDHE reported.

Eighteen Kansas counties had reported cases, with Johnson County, Kansas’ largest county, the highest at 36.

The nationwide total Tuesday was 52,400 with 673 deaths.

10-person limit

To stem the spread, Marshall County commissioners last week met with county emergency and health officials and voted to limit public gatherings to 10 people and to prohibit dining inside local restaurants, bars and theaters starting March 19. Carryout and curbside food orders are still permitted.

The courthouse was closed to public entry while county offices remain open only by phone and email. The state has put all district court actions on hold except in urgent situations, and all hearings are being continued until May.

The county’s actions were recommended by county public health officer Dr. John Ryan. All three decisions went into effect until further notice.

The 10-person gathering limit has exceptions. They include religious gatherings as long as people stay at least six feet apart, city or county government meetings, federal government operations, funerals or memorial services, child care locations, residential care centers and group homes for the disabled, hotels or motels, military facilities, jail, disaster response shelters, food pantries, apartment buildings, medical facilities, pharmacies, long-term care and assisted living facilities, supermarkets, office spaces and government service centers, manufacturing facilities, public transportation and utility facilities.

Only a matter of time

County health nurse Sue Rhodes said it is only a matter of days until the county has its first coronavirus case.

“This is going to be a huge psychological, mental and physical change for everybody,” Rhodes said. “It’s just going to be hard. Neighbors are going to have to help neighbors. They’re going to have to start calling and checking on their older neighbors.”

County counselor Jason Brinegar urged strong steps to prevent the virus’ spread.

“The harsh reality is it is coming,” Brinegar said. “It will either overwhelm us or we are going to get through it. I’ve been told by the health care professionals I’ve talked to that there is no such thing as an overreaction. I think that is why we should be overreacting. You gotta get your food. You gotta get your services you need to survive. But I don’t think there is necessarily anything that needs to be done over the next two weeks that can’t be pushed down the road.”

Brinegar said this is a situation where people will look back and possibly say the precautions were unnecessary but without them it could be “incredibly devastating.”

County commissioner Keith Bramhall said it goes against every fiber of his being to tell a business what to do, but he understands at this time it is necessary.

Marysville Police Chief Todd Ackerman said assistant chief Matt Simpson would disseminate regular updates on the county’s situation to radio stations, Blue Valley Television, newspapers and social media.

Blue Rapids city clerk Chrystal Busey asked whether the county could set up a coronavirus testing site in the Valley Heights area so residents in Waterville and Blue Rapids could get tested without having to travel to Marysville.

Rhodes said that Busey’s request could be a possibility if more testing is necessary.

In regard to limiting public gatherings to 10 people, Brinegar said law enforcement could treat it as a criminal matter but he recommended that officers disperse groups and educate them on the situation instead of making arrests.

Undersheriff Tim Ackerman said it would be counterproductive to arrest large groups of people.

Hospital and clinic entry

CMH facilities are limiting access to medical facilities in response to the pandemic. Marysville’s Community Physician’s Clinic and Surgeon’s Clinic, and Blue Rapids Medical Clinic remain open, but well visits and other routine checkups have been postponed unless deemed necessary by a provider, Kracht said.

All patients are screened prior to entering CMH facilities by answering questions and having their temperature read. The Wymore, Neb., location of Community Physicians Clinic is temporarily closed to conserve staff and personal protective equipment, Kracht said.

Patients can call all three clinics to speak with their provider or a nurse if they have any health concerns. Videoconferencing or a telehealth visit may be possible, dependent on circumstances.

Entrance to Community Memorial Healthcare has been limited to the east hospital doors under the covered patient drop-off area only, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All staff, non-emergency patients, and hospital vendors should enter through those doors, and will be screened upon arrival. All other entrances will be locked at all times, Kracht said.

“Those who do not meet screening criteria will be sent home and asked to contact their primary care provider for further instruction,” she said. “No visitors are allowed at this time without approval from the patient’s physician.”

Any emergency patients should continue to enter through CMH’s emergency entrance, in addition to staff entering the building from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Community Medical Equipment and Home Health in downtown Marysville is open regular hours, but entrance will be by appointment only. People can call 785-562-2858 to make an appointment. All staff and visitors will be screened prior to entering.

Kracht said elective surgeries, routine imaging, non-essential lab services, and the specialist outpatient clinic have been temporarily suspended for two weeks. CMH will re-evaluate precautions at that time.

“We are limiting access to CMH facilities for healthy people whose appointments can be pushed back a little, so that we can protect our patients that are the most vulnerable and our health care workers,” said CMH administrator Curtis Hawkinson. “By acting through an abundance of caution now, we hope to lessen the impact from coronavirus in the Marshall County community overall. Our staff is here to meet your health needs as much as we can via phone or videoconference, if necessary. We encourage the community to stay home as much as possible within the realm of reason, and abide by the social distancing protocols put in place to protect our citizens.”

Those who have traveled in recent weeks should check with their physician or the health department.

KDHE is now mandating 14-day home quarantine for Kansans who have:

• Traveled to a state with known widespread community transmission — California, Florida, New York and Washington state — on or after March 15.

• Traveled to Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.

• Visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado in the week of March 8 or after.

• Traveled on a cruise ship or river cruise on or after March 15.

• Traveled internationally on or after March 15.

• Received notification from public health officials (state or local) that you are a close contact of a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. You should quarantine at home for 14 days since your last contact with the case. A close contact is defined as someone who has been closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes while the patient is symptomatic.

For information, people can visit the KDHE website at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.

KDHE has a phone bank that is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 1-866-534-3463. (1-866-KDHEINF). KDHE also has an email address for general inquiries, COVID-19@ks.gov.  This is for general questions and cannot provide people with medical evaluations. Anyone feeling ill should stay at home and call a healthcare provider.