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Owner of facility tied to Kansas death runs Washington home

March 14, 2020 GMT
Kansas Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman, center, answers questions about a COVID-19-related death of a man in his 70s in a Kansas City, Kan., area nursing home, the state's first fatality linked to the coronavirus, Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Watching are Gov. Laura Kelly, left, and Laura Howard, right, the state's secretary for aging and disability services. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Kansas Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman, center, answers questions about a COVID-19-related death of a man in his 70s in a Kansas City, Kan., area nursing home, the state's first fatality linked to the coronavirus, Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Watching are Gov. Laura Kelly, left, and Laura Howard, right, the state's secretary for aging and disability services. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A nursing home resident who become Kansas’ first COVID-19-related death was infected at the Life Care Center of Kansas City, which is owned by the same company that runs the facility in Washington state linked to 22 fatalities, state health officials said Friday.

Dr. Lee Norman, the Kansas Department of Health secretary, said officials will be focusing on whether there has been any personnel sharing between the nursing homes in Kirkland, Washington, and the one in Kansas. Life Care has skilled nursing facilities across the country.

Health officials haven’t found “any particular source of infection for this person. He was bed-bound so the infection came to him,” Norman said.

No other residents of the Wyandotte County nursing home have been reported to be showing symptoms, although the investigation is still in its early stages, he said.

Life Care Center of Kansas City referred all calls to another phone number whose voicemail box was full.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency as part of federal efforts to curb the pandemic. Gov. Laura Kelly has already declared a state of emergency in Kansas to make it easier to mobilize resources.

The number of coronavirus cases in Kansas grew to six on Friday. A 72-year-old Butler County man developed symptoms days after returning from a Caribbean cruise, and health officials said the man is in isolation in a Wichita hospital.

Four other COVID-19 cases have been reported in Johnson County. All of them become infected while traveling out of state.

Health officials in Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, on Friday banned all public gatherings larger than 250 attendees until further notice. Officials said the ban was necessary to keep the community safe, although the county has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving local residents. The ban also applies to large church gatherings, said Dr. Gerald Minns, the county’s health officer.

The Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, Kansas, is among the churches cancelling services. It has the largest Methodist congregation in the U.S. with over 20,000 members.

The Kansas Department of Corrections announced Friday it was suspending visitation at all prison facilities, and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt established a price-gouging law that prohibits profiteering on necessities.

The Kansas City Star reported that Leawood closed its City Hall on Friday after a possible coronavirus exposure. Leawood police spokesman Capt. Brad Robbins said someone who might have been exposed to the virus had been in the building so they were closing it to nonessential employees out of an “overabundance of caution.”

Meanwhile, access to the Statehouse has been restricted to those conducting official business, effective Monday, Kelly announced Friday.

In the Kansas House, Republican leaders were hoping to get a basic budget finished by early next week so the core functions of government will be funded after June. Lawmakers also were working on proposals to allow Kelly to issue longer-term emergency declarations, and to allow the courts to delay trials and give people more time to file lawsuits if the courts have to shut down because of the virus.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the courts to make a plan to keep critical functions running.

Universities and colleges, including the University of Kansas and Kansas State, are moving their classes online. Public school officials contemplated closing schools to mitigate the threat, and the health officer in Shawnee County in eastern Kansas, which includes Topeka, ordered all schools closed for two weeks starting Monday.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has canceled the 2020 state basketball tournaments, meaning there will be no state champion for the first time since 1907, The Wichita Eagle reports. Also canceled was a Harlem Globetrotters game at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Topeka is not going to happen.

Several hospitals announced that they were restricting access to visitors, and some nursing homes also rolled out restrictions.

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Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Associated Press writer John Hanna contributed from Topeka.

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