- Associated Press - Friday, March 20, 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas’ health department is “precariously low” on coronavirus testing kits and could be forced to rely on private labs, potentially delaying results, the agency’s top administrator said Friday.

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Department of Health and Environment, said that testing wouldn’t stop altogether if the agency ran out of kits because it would hold back a few for infected people who’ve been hospitalized. Four private lab companies are doing testing, though Norman said they typically take longer to report their results than the state’s one-day turnaround.

Norman said during a briefing that the state has enough testing kits for about 300 patients, and it’s doing testing for between 150 and 300 a day, suggesting the health department could run out this weekend. The department later said it found kits for another 100 people, but that’s not even a full day’s supply.

The health department has been providing free testing for local agencies and hospitals, and private lab tests will come with a cost of roughly $200.

“Everybody’s struggling with this,” Norman said.

Norman said his department is helping hospitals start their own testing.

Kansas has had more than 40 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including one death, with 10 new confirmed cases reported Friday alone. The vast majority of infected people recover and most people have mild or moderate symptoms, but the virus can lead to serious illnesses in some people, particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions.

The state Department for Children and Families announced Friday that it will close its offices indefinitely, starting Monday. It said it will continue to investigate child abuse or neglect and process applications for services. It will take applications online and at drop boxes outside its offices.

Also Friday, the state launched a program to provide short-term, no-interest loans of up to $20,000 each to bars, restaurants, taverns and motels struggling to cover operating expenses because of the pandemic’s economic toll.

The program will tap funds the state has set aside to close deals to lure businesses to Kansas to instead make up to $5 million in loans. State Commerce Secretary David Toland said the total amount amount of loans could grow. The program is designed to supplement federal Small Business Administration loans.

Toland also said the state directed communities that have received $6 million in development grants, typically for sprucing up downtowns or making infrastructure improvements, to use them to assist struggling businesses.

The program launched after conservative Republican legislators argued that some of Gov. Laura Kelly’s actions were too aggressive, stoked panic and risked severe harm to businesses.

Some communities, including Kansas City-area suburbs, Topeka, and Lawrence, have told businesses to stop allowing dine-in services.

Kansas Labor Secretary Delia Garcia said the state has received more than 11,000 initial unemployment claims this week, a 524% increase over the roughly 1,800 it received last week.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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