Osawatomie Fire Department

The Osawatomie Volunteer Fire Department will be temporarily assisting the Fontana Fire Department with fire and EMS calls in its area because of COVID-19-related staffing concerns.

The spread of COVID-19 cases in the county has created the need for the Osawatomie Volunteer Fire Department to assist a neighboring department with its calls.

“Effective last night, we added the Osawatomie Fire Department to all responses within the Fontana Fire Department area due to COVID concerns with their staff,” Mark Whelan told county commissioners during a county fire board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The Board of County Commissioners also serves as the fire board.

“This way we can ensure we do get a timely response to any fire or EMS calls in Fontana’s area,” said Whelan, emergency management coordinator at the Miami County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re hoping that will clear in the next couple of weeks. Once Fontana is back up to their normal staffing, we’ll switch it back to Fontana taking care of their own calls unless they call for help.”

Prior to the fire board meeting, Whelan also delivered the Miami County Health Department’s weekly report to commissioners which showed the county had added four more deaths and about 50 more active cases in the past week. The county’s death toll stands at seven.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 9, the county had 212 active cases, up from 164 cases on Dec. 2, according to health department reports.

“We have five active clusters in the county and several more still being investigated,” Whelan said.

The health department reports that cases associated with the county’s five clusters are as follows:

  • One hospital/health care: About 51 patients/staff; one current hospitalization
  • One group living: About 40 patients/staff
  • Three long-term care facilities: Combined total of about 67 staff/residents, two current hospitalizations, and three deaths.

The health department reported it would not be releasing additional details about these clusters.

Of the county’s 212 positive cases, 85 cases have Paola addresses, followed by Louisburg, 75 cases; Osawatomie, 30 cases; Spring Hill, 10 cases; Bucyrus, eight cases; Fontana, three cases, and Edgerton, one case.

“About 160 of the 212 active cases right now are from those clusters,” Whelan said.

The county’s average two-week positivity rate is 22.91 percent, up 6 percent from last week’s report of 16.89 percent. The state average was about 17 percent on Dec. 9.

Whelan also provided a report on the availability of beds at Kansas City metro area hospitals to serve COVID-19 patients.

“(Intensive Care Units) in the KC metro remains at 31 percent availability, and ventilator availability is at 70 percent,” Whelan said.

Commissioner Danny Gallagher wanted to clarify that the report was addressing bed capacity.

“If there were 100 beds (for example) there would still be 31 available (to treat COVID-19 patients),” Gallagher said.

“Correct — that can be adequately staffed and covered,” Whelan said.

Whelan said more beds and equipment might be available, but a hospital might not have enough staff to cover those beds.

“These are Kansas City metro hospitals in the northeast region of Kansas that we would send patients to,” Whelan said.

Commission Chairman Rob Roberts, who is also chairman of Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) serving a number of counties and municipalities in the metro area, said a recent Zoom meeting with metro hospital officials addressed hospital capacity and that the region’s healthcare staff is being overworked.

On a different front, Whelan reported the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) notified the county health department it would receive 10 pallets of hand sanitizer in 4-ounce bottles on Friday, Dec. 11, or Monday, Dec. 14, to distribute to emergency services, healthcare facilities, businesses and other outlets.

“We’ll try to get the word out so if a citizen needs some hand sanitizer we can get that out to them also,” Whelan said.

Whelan also reported on KDHE’s initiative to ramp up testing. Paola will be getting a free testing site, to be set up at the Paola Adult Education Center parking lot, beginning Friday, Dec. 18. A total of 7,855 tests had been logged in the county as of Wednesday. The county’s overall case count Wednesday was 1,268, and 1,049 of those cases have recovered, according to the health department report.

Whelan also noted that county health officials are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding quarantines, which no longer call for 14 days of isolation.

“The health officer and the health department are following the new CDC recommendations, so they are going with the 7 to 10 days, depending on the situation,” Whelan said.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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