U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., on Tuesday visited Garden City’s COVID-19 testing center at the Finney County Fairgrounds, as well as Genesis Family Health Clinic, Garden City Community College, St. Catherine Hospital and area meat-packing plants.
Marshall said he wanted to visit the area to make sure things are in good shape, specifically at the meat-processing plants.
He’s said been working on this COVID-19 problem since January, trying to anticipate some of the challenges. Then, about 10 days ago, he got a phone call from doctors in southwest Kansas saying there might be a big outbreak in the area.
The packing plants are a concern for Marshall, as he said 20% of the beef in the U.S. is processed in southwest Kansas.
Marshall said he wanted to figure out what to do to minimize the impact of the virus here, so he called the secretary of agriculture.
“This is so critical to our food chain, the processing plants,” he said. “Within 24 hours, the President’s team reached back to us and told us they would give us whatever we needed, that they would make sure we had adequate testing, protection equipment for all of the staff.”
Marshall said that’s why he wanted to come visit, to see what pieces are missing and if there’s anything he can do to help.
“I just wanted to put eyes on the situation,” he said.
Marshall said he’s pleased with what’s being done at the plants. He believes it’s safer working at the packing plants than visiting Walmart.
“They're doing incredibly good things there — they're doing social distancing, they're putting barriers between the people, they're doing screening intake questions, they're taking temperatures of people twice a day,” he said. “As long as you're following the rules that they've got set up, I think they're doing a great job protecting their employees.”
He’s also pleased to see how the COVID-19 testing center is being run and how different levels of government (Finney County Health Department, the National Guard, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, DHS) are interfacing with one another.
“I’ve been to Dodge City and ... I was also up in Kansas City last week and I think these two locations are the most organized, efficient testing centers I’ve seen and are really using all the tools that they have,” he said.
More testing will be necessary to reopen the state, Marshall said.
While every state and county is going to be different, Marshall said southwest Kansas is not ready to reopen yet.
“I think we need to figure out when it’s safe, and then when it is safe, to have the testing in place,” he said. “More than just testing, I think that each business is going to have to develop their own plan, a plan that keeps their employees safe as well as their customers.”
Marshall recommends that business owners speak to medical professionals about infectious disease control and what the process is going to look like for reopening their businesses.
Social responsibility is going to be important moving forward, Marshall said.
“Maybe DHS can help us get some of these infrared thermometers in the public places, they have those out at the packing plants and they can do 30 people at a time,” he said. “I don't know if they need to be there forever, but here for the next three months in southwest Kansas I think would be a great idea.”