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Health official frustrated with people looking for ways to “wiggle around” the restrictions of stay-at-home order

Kansas’ top public health official expressed frustration Wednesday with people who are trying to exploit exceptions in local stay-at-home orders meant to check the spread of the novel coronavirus, warning, “This is not a game.“

The number of confirmed Kansas coronavirus cases rose to more than 120, and Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s secretary of health and environment, said he expects the number to approach 400 by the end of March.  Three people have died from COVID-19-related deaths, all in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced Tuesday night that the latest victim is a man in his 70s who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.  Neighboring Johnson County reported 10 more cases, raising its total to 46, the most in the state.

At least 10 counties have issued shelter-in-place orders, including the five most populous counties, and they now cover roughly 60% of the state’s population.  But Norman said all Kansans should stay at home as much as possible, and chided people who look for ways to “wiggle around” the restrictions by citing exceptions that allow people to buy food, gas up their cars or seek medical care.

“We really need to take home isolation seriously, whether or not there’s a declaration in place.  Adults should not require declarations in place in order to follow great advice, “Norman said.  “This is not game. It’s not a puzzle to try to figure out how to skirt around the exemptions that are in place.”

Also Wednesday, Governor Laura Kelly signed a $19.9 billion annual budget that keeps state government operating after June, and it includes $65 million in disaster relief funds that can be used to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Steven Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, said the expected surge of patients at the hospital is beginning, with eight patients with confirmed cases and about 40 more with symptoms. A business group has raised $1.2 million to provide the health system 50,000 test kits.

Ten of the state’s 105 counties have no hospital, and 77 counties have a single community hospital. Fifty-six counties have 25 or fewer licensed hospital beds. At least four counties with no hospital have confirmed coronavirus cases.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Norman said the state health department is working on obtaining equipment similar to “a tanning bed” using ultraviolet light to sterilize protective equipment, such as masks, for medical personnel, so that the equipment can be used five or six times.

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