A town hall meeting was held via Facebook Live and Zoom by city workers and city commissioners Tuesday evening.
Lindsay Byrnes, Finney County Health Department medical director, gave an update of the COVID-19 situation in Kansas and Finney County during the meeting.
As of March 31, Byrnes said there were 428 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
By 1 p.m. April 1, that number rose to 482 cases with 10 deaths on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website.
There is one confirmed case in Finney County.
Tests are still limited, Byrnes said, and guidance from KDHE as of March 23 is to prioritize testing of first responders with symptoms in order to preserve workforce.
“We want to be able to test people, know if they need to be isolated or whether or not they're able to go back and serve in their capacity,” she said.
Anyone who meets the criteria for testing is considered a person under investigation, Byrnes said.
“We will call and find our who your household contacts are, where you've been, who you've been with, where you've traveled, etc., in an attempt to try and then track down other folks who might have been in contact with you who might be symptomatic or need testing,” she said.
Byrnes said ideally they would test a broad range of people, but they are limited in the number of tests they have.
“We’re trying to continue to let people know that they need to isolate themselves, even if we can't offer testing if there's been an exposure,” she said.
The turnaround from getting tested is anywhere from 72 hours to a week or 10 days, Byrnes said.
The state is trying to guarantee a 72-hour turnaround, but that depends on if the specimen gets to the state’s lab within a certain timeframe and it has to be delivered cold.
The majority of tests in Kansas are being done through private labs, Byrnes said, that turnaround is between one week to 10 days.
Byrnes said the limiting factor in testing in Kansas is platform at the state lab to run the tests, which is 75 per day.
“They were supposed to get a new piece of equipment that could run up to 1,000, that’s supposed to be online this week, but I haven’t heard confirmation of that yet,” she said. “But at the same time we're still limited by some of the reagents and the swabs to be able to do that.”
Social distancing and isolation is still the best way to fight the spread of COVID-19, Byrnes said. There are no anti-virals, no vaccines.
“What we have right now is our behaviors,” she said. “What I would ask is for everyone to do their very best to optimize your isolation behaviors. Do that for you, do that for your community.”
People need to reduce the number of touches they have, practicing good hygiene and decreasing travel — even to the grocery store, Byrnes said.
“Everybody's got to go to the store and get supplies, get groceries, I understand, but do try to consolidate it,” she said. “I think hygiene and washing down surfaces, washing your hands frequently, emphasizing that and trying to keep that six feet apart, that social distance, is really, really important.”
In addition to COVID-19, members of the public were concerned about the Lee Richardson Zoo and why it was still open.
Byrnes said in regard to public areas like a golf course, public parks or the zoo, it’s up to personal discretion.
“Whether or not the city decides to close the zoo, I think is an administrative decision, but they gave me a plan as to how they could risk mitigate the best way possible and still keep that facility, at least open to walk through traffic. I looked at it and I thought that that was probably fine,” she said. “It, again, kind of goes to the making good decisions and say 'maybe you could walk through the zoo but not touch anything and still be able to walk through the zoo.“
Byrnes said she doesn’t want to encourage everyone to crowd into the parks, as there’s a reason why playgrounds and things have been roped off.
As of March 30, the zoo closed its drive-through access as well as the Wild Asia habitat temporarily. The outdoor zoo campus is still available to pedestrians.
A statement released by the zoo stated the changes were made to support pedestrians to have ample room to allow the six-foot social distancing recommendation.
The roads will be open to provide ample space for those who are walking. Wild Asia was closed because the walkways do not afford the space.
“The zoo will temporarily postpone the beginning of extended hours and continue with its regular open hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.” they said. “This allows staff to reduce crossing with each other in accordance with the directive to decrease contact with others and common touch surfaces, thereby facilitating their safety during the coronavirus pandemic.”