Leavenworth County commissioners received an update Tuesday on the county’s response to the coronavirus.
County Health Officer Jamie Miller told commissioners Tuesday morning of two new confirmed cases in the county. But by the afternoon, the Leavenworth County Health Department announced a new confirmed case in addition to the two Miller had mentioned during his morning briefing. This raised the total number of confirmed cases in the county to eight.
Miller said there "are probably a lot more in our community that have this disease," noting the confirmed cases come only from people who have been tested.
"We don’t know the exact number," he said.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Leavenworth County Health Department reported that a total of 94 people in the county have been tested for COVID-19. The tests were performed by the Health Department and other health professionals.
Seventy of the people tested received negative results. Eight people have tested positive, and results are pending for 16 tests.
He said the Health Department received updated guidance from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding prioritization for tests submitted to state laboratories. Guidelines were updated because of shortages of supplies and reagents.
The Leavenworth County Health Department utilizes the state lab facilities and follows these guidelines. Some health care providers rely on private labs.
Miller responded to questions about limited information that is provided to the public about people who test positive for the coronavirus including where they live.
He said releasing information about where they live may result in a false sense of security to people from other areas of the county.
"These cases are here," he said.
He said people need to practice social distancing and good hygiene to help protect themselves.
A stay-at-home order issued by Miller went into effect Tuesday.
The order allows people to leave home for essential activities such as buying groceries. The order also directed business operations to cease in the county. But the order provides exemptions for businesses that are considered essential.
County Administrator Mark Loughry said employees of these essential businesses are not required to carry exemption letters as they travel to and from work.
He said roadblocks are not being set up to screen travelers.
Similar stay-at-home orders are in place in other counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Miller said Leavenworth County relies on the greater metropolitan area’s health care system for serious health cases.
"We don’t have the ICU beds," he said. "We don’t have the ventilators."
Commissioner Chad Schimke said Leavenworth County has a large population of retirees from Fort Leavenworth who have remained in the community.
"We have a very high at-risk age group in general," he said.
Commissioner Mike Stieben asked what people should do if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
In the case of mild to moderate symptoms, the person should first call his or her normal health care provider or the Leavenworth County Health Department, Miller said.
The patient will receive guidance about what to do.
If a person is experiencing severe or life-threatening problems, he or she can call 911.