Kansas issues new quarantine mandates, bars new evictions

March 19, 2020 GMT
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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters after announcing that she'd order all public and private K-12 schools in the state to close for the rest of the semester, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly issued the order in hopes of checking the spread of the coronavirus, and her action will move learning online for students. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters after announcing that she'd order all public and private K-12 schools in the state to close for the rest of the semester, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly issued the order in hopes of checking the spread of the coronavirus, and her action will move learning online for students. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas issued strict quarantine mandates Wednesday for people who have traveled or had close contact with those with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, part of an effort to limit its local spread.

But that local spread was inevitable, particularly in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county and home to affluent and sprawling Kansas City suburbs. It had 11 of the state’s 21 confirmed coronavirus cases, and five of them were people who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 locally, said Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s health secretary.

The state has had one COVID-19-related death, in neighboring Wyandotte County, also in the Kansas City area. Norman said that the U.S. is “exactly tracing on the trajectory that we’re seeing for Italy,” a hotspot for cases.

“It is the nature of epidemics to start slow and take off like this,” Norman told reporters during a briefing.

Because of the community transmission in Johnson County, health officials said those with mild symptoms will not be tested but instead advised to self-isolate. Testing will be limited to Johnson County residents who are hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms.

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For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms and the vast majority recover. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which Norman heads, announced it is now mandating 14-day home quarantine for Kansans who traveled to states with known widespread community transmission since Sunday.

The rule also applies to people who recently visited four hard-hit counties in neighboring Colorado; traveled on a cruise ship or internationally since Sunday; were previously told to quarantine because of travel to China, Italy, South Korea, Japan or Iran; or have been notified by public health officials that they have had close contact with someone with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Kansas City VA Medical Center reported that a veteran from Wyandotte County tested positive after visiting one of its clinics. He has been quarantined at home since March 12 and has not required hospitalization.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed an executive Tuesday order requiring financial institutions to suspend business and residential evictions until May 1 to help those financially affected by the spread of the virus. Some legislators criticized her for interfering with businesses.

The order came a day after Kelly ordered all of the state’s K-12 schools to close and to move lessons online for the rest of the spring semester.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the state’s courts to close except for emergency operations and trials already in progress.

Douglas County, which includes Lawrence and the University of Kansas, prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered the closing of restaurants, bars, night clubs and movie theaters effective through April 1.

Textron Aviation said Wednesday that it will furlough thousands of workers in Wichita and throughout the U.S. for four weeks between Monday and May 29.

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Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri.

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