Kansas coronavirus update: Leavenworth VA employee tests positive; 71 confirmed cases

By Sherman Smith and Tim Carpenter

Tribune News Service

TOPEKA — An employee at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center has tested positive for COVID-19, the VA announced Monday.

The agency said the risk of transmission to other patients and staff remains low, and the individual is collaborating with local health officials for monitoring.

The hospital is screening patients and staff for symptoms of the virus.

At least 71 Kansas residents and two out-of-state visitors have tested positive for the coronavirus, and residents in some of the state’s most populous areas are preparing for a month-long stay at home with orders that take effect Tuesday.

The orders are in place for Douglas, Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. Other areas, including Shawnee County, have closed bars and restaurants in an effort to encourage social distancing.

Monday was also the first day in which state employees stayed at home for two weeks under the direction of Gov. Laura Kelly. Essential workers are excluded from the home quarantines.

Kelly has issued executive orders to expand telemedicine, ease restrictions on truckers, close schools, and block evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs as part of the campaign against the spread of COVID-19.

The Legislature before adjourning last week allocated $65 million for use in dealing with the pandemic.

In the U.S. Senate, lawmakers were searching for a breakthrough on a stimulus package to prop up an economy in free-fall over the spread of COVID-19.

Democrats on Sunday blocked a procedural move to advance the legislation, saying the trillions of dollars would flow more to businesses and less to their employees. Democratic leaders in the U.S. House were considering a rival stimulus plan.

“The coronavirus is causing an unprecedented crisis in our country — jeopardizing both the public safety and financial security of our families, workers, and businesses,” said Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from the 3rd District in Kansas. “As we work to address this public health emergency and provide economic relief, I’m fighting to ensure that the priorities of Kansas and the 3rd District are incorporated in any stimulus package Congress puts forward.”

Saint Francis Ministries, a child-placement provider that contracts with the Kansas Department of Children and Families, urged lawmakers to consider the needs of children and families.

The federal stimulus plan should ensure the same protection for nonprofits as for private business, said Morgan Rothenberger, spokeswoman for Saint Francis Ministries.

“The concern is that as stress on families increases with layoffs, business closures, etc., and lack of supplies in stores, bills unpaid, we will see increased need for our services,” Rothenberger said. “Nonprofit organizations like Saint Francis will respond to those needs — that is never the concern. But we will need additional resources, especially as our workforce and resources become stretched when people are ill or caring for ill family members.”

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