Mayor: Kansas City pre­pared for out­break of coro­n­avirus

The Kansas City Star - - Stay Connected - BY ALLISON KITE [email protected]­star.com The Star’s Bryan Lowry con­trib­uted to this re­port from Wash­ing­ton. Allison Kite: 816-234-4088, @Al­lie_Kite

Kansas City does not have any con­firmed cases of the novel coro­n­avirus, but it’s “in­evitable” that it will, the city’s top pub­lic health of­fi­cial, Rex Archer, said Tues­day.

Archer took part in a news con­fer­ence with Mayor Quin­ton Lu­cas and Erica Car­ney, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the city’s Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices depart­ment. They said city of­fi­cials are work­ing with state and fed­eral health au­thor­i­ties and mon­i­tor­ing the spread of the dis­ease, which has killed thou­sands world­wide.

Un­less cir­cum­stances change, Lu­cas said, Kansas City does not an­tic­i­pate al­ter­ing plans for next week’s Big 12 bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment at the Sprint Cen­ter. The city also doesn’t plan to have res­i­dents wear gloves or make any other changes to Mis­souri’s pres­i­den­tial pri­mary elec­tion sched­uled for March 10.

Car­ney said many area health providers are pre­screen­ing pa­tients for symp­toms, in­clud­ing cough­ing and res­pi­ra­tory distress. Lu­cas said the city is pre­par­ing con­tin­gency plans if 911 calls rise.

But at this point, Lu­cas said, most of the prepa­ra­tion in­volves meet­ings and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“We are pre­pared, and we are pre­par­ing every day, work­ing across de­part­ments in our city, but also mak­ing sure we’re work­ing with state and fed­eral agen­cies,” Lu­cas said.

Archer likened such out­breaks to hur­ri­canes in that they can vary in sever­ity.

“Hur­ri­canes some­times change be­fore they hit the coast, so we will ad­just, we will change,” Archer said. “We will not over­re­act; we will not un­der­re­act.”

Kansas City In­ter­na­tional Air­port is not screen­ing pas­sen­gers, Avi­a­tion Di­rec­tor Pat Klein said, be­cause it does not have di­rect flights to any coun­tries that have had se­vere out­breaks. Air­ports that do fly those routes are screen­ing pas­sen­gers, he said.

Joe McBride, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for KCI, said the air­port had stocked up on sup­plies, boosted its clean­ing ef­forts and en­sured that con­ces­sion­ar­ies and air­lines had done the same.

Archer said that timely test­ing had been an is­sue around the coun­try but that he was start­ing to see more labs “come on­line” to help test for the dis­ease. In Kansas City, he said, the health depart­ment can draw and send sam­ples to labs.

In the mean­time, Lu­cas, Archer and Car­ney, urged res­i­dents to take pre­cau­tions, in­clud­ing wash­ing their hands.

“I’m ask­ing for peo­ple a mora­to­rium of hand­shak­ing,” Archer said.

Mis­souri Gov. Mike Par­son, a Repub­li­can, also took part in a brief­ing on the virus on Tues­day. He said the state is “very well-prpeared if a coro­n­avirus out­break were to hap­pen in Mis­souri.”

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Mis­souri Repub­li­can, said on the Se­nate floor Tues­day that he was “con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to have the re­sources to deal with this.”

“But our job right now is to pre­pare for the worst things that could hap­pen with hav­ing the fund­ing avail­able so that we don’t have to go through a cou­ple of weeks again where an easy de­ter­mi­na­tion should have been reached,” Blunt said.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City), how­ever, said the coun­try was “woe­fully un­pre­pared.”

“We’ve got to fig­ure out ways we can be pre­pared be­cause it’s not go­ing to be the last pan­demic,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver also sug­gested cities should have sep­a­rate fa­cil­i­ties for coro­n­avirus pa­tients so that the virus doesn’t spread within the walls of hos­pi­tals.

“If it’s an­nounced to­mor­row that 16 peo­ple in Kansas City have the virus, we don’t have any­where in place. … We need to ask the gover­nors of every state to put a plan to­gether,” he said.

Coro­n­avirus, or COVID-19, orig­i­nated last year in Wuhan, China, and has since spread across the world. The ill­ness has in­fected 92,000 peo­ple glob­ally and killed 3,100, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported on Tues­day.

The death toll in the U.S. climbed to nine on Tues­day, all in Wash­ing­ton state and most in a sub­urb of Seat­tle.

In the Kansas City area, two Black & Veatch em­ploy­ees are “self-iso­lat­ing” after pos­si­ble ex­po­sure to the virus. The com­pany said in a state­ment Mon­day that it was tak­ing steps “to en­sure the safety and clean­li­ness of our work and pub­lic ar­eas so that our pro­fes­sion­als can re­turn to work.”

Lu­cas said res­i­dents hop­ing to find out more can visit the city’s web­site, kcmo.gov, or text “COVID” to 888-777.

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