The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) on Saturday, March 21, reported its first death of a resident from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The person who died was a male in his 70s who was hospitalized and had no history of travel. He did have underlying health conditions. The county currently has 26 positive cases of coronavirus, including the death, according to a JCDHE news release.

Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of JCDHE, urged residents to stay safe and healthy.

"This is a tragic loss of life and we share our heartfelt condolences with the family," Dr. Areola said in the release. "While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can cause a very serious infection that can lead to death, especially in people over age 60 and those with underlying medical conditions.”

It’s the second coronavirus-related death in Kansas. The first death, also a male in his 70s, occurred in a senior care center in Wyandotte County on March 12.

Areola said that protecting the health of the community and slowing the spread of COVID-19 is the department’s top priority. Earlier this week, Dr. Joseph LeMaster, JCDHE’s health officer, ordered the closing of all Johnson County schools, according to the release.

In a separate order, he closed restaurants, bars, taverns, clubs and movie theaters for 15 days, with the exception of carry-out, delivery and drive-throughs. Dr. LeMaster also limited the number of people at public gatherings to 10. An earlier exception to that order included weddings, religious and faith-based gatherings and funerals. That exemption has since been rescinded, according to the release.

“I know this news is alarming, but we are doing everything possible to make sure the public is safe," Areola said. "I urge businesses and families to take health precautions and practice physical distancing. Work from home, if possible, wash your hands and disinfect surfaces frequently, and stay home when you are sick."

Johnson County has accounted for about half of the state’s 55 presumptive positive cases. Wyandotte County has 13 cases, according to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) update Saturday morning.

Other counties that have recorded COVID-19 cases are Linn, Franklin, Douglas, Leavenworth, Butler, Cherokee, Jackson, Mitchell, Morris, Reno, Riley and Sedgwick, according to KDHE.

Miami County Health Department reported Friday, March 20, that multiple Miami County residents have been tested and all of those tests have come back negative.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

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