An elderly Wyandotte County man who on Thursday, March 12, became the first coronavirus-related death in Kansas had been living at Life Care Center of Kansas City, a source confirmed to The Republic.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) case underscored the need for long-term care facilities and retirement communities to tighten restrictions on visitors, the state’s Secretary for Department for Children and Families and Department for Aging and Disability Services said in a news release following the man’s death.
The man, said to be in his 70s, died shortly after arriving at a hospital. A test conducted during a postmortem examination came back positive for coronavirus.
“To prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our most vulnerable population, it’s important to follow the recommended guidelines of screening and restricting visitors to our long-term care facilities,” Secretary Laura Howard said.
Life Care Center of Kansas City is owned by Life Care Centers of America, the same company that owns Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., the epicenter of the Pacific Northwest state’s COVID-19 outbreak. As of Friday morning, March 13, 22 of Washington’s 31 confirmed COVID-19 deaths have been linked to the Kirkland nursing home northeast of Seattle.
Life Care Center of Osawatomie assures the public that it is taking every precaution to protect residents.
Life Care Centers of America released the following statement: “Resident safety is a top priority for Life Care Centers of America, and we are taking necessary precautions to protect our residents from COVID-19. We are utilizing infection control procedures set forth by CMS, CDC and local health departments, and going over our own infection control policies and procedures.”
In addition, the company said it is complying with the new CMS visitation restriction guidelines that apply to all nursing homes.
“These guidelines do limit visitors significantly in an effort to help protect our residents from possible exposure to this virus. As such, we encourage families to establish alternate ways of communicating with our residents, such as by telephone, texting, video conferencing or other means. We understand family members are an integral part of our residents’ lives and encourage any family members with concerns or questions about these limitations to call the facility for more information.
“Our associates are being diligent on practicing proper hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment, which is recurring education they normally receive, beginning with their orientation at our facility. Every associate is now screened when they arrive for work, including checking temperature, to ensure no additional sickness is brought into our building. If they have a fever over 100.4, we send them home and ask they visit their personal physician. This is in accordance with CMS and CDC guidelines. This is an ever-changing and unprecedented situation, but we remain committed to taking all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.”
Life Care Center of Osawatomie Executive Director Amiee Seck said resident safety is a top priority for Life Care Center of Osawatomie.
“Our facility is still fully operational, and we will continue to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents, our associates and the community,” Seck said.
Life Care Center of Osawatomie and other assisted living communities in Miami County had already initiated protocols to restrict visitors even before the Wyandotte County death occurred Thursday night.
Grace Management Inc., which has Vintage Park locations in Osawatomie, Paola and Louisburg, issued a statement Thursday that there were no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 with any of its residents or staff to date.
“The health and safety of our residents and associates in all of our senior living communities is our number one priority,” Grace Management said in the statement. “We have implemented additional protocols and precautionary measures based upon the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as outlined on our website. Our team continues to closely monitor our communities for any signs of the virus, and we are providing ongoing education and resources.”
North Point — Skilled Nursing by Americare in Paola assured that it is taking precautions to keep residents safe. As of Friday morning, the senior care facility had not yet released more specific details to the media.
Louisburg Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center issued a statement on Facebook that “effective immediately, in order to keep your loved ones safe from COVID-19, all visitation will be limited to CMS guidelines. Meaning individuals shall not be allowed to come into the facility, except for certain situations. Each of these situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) officials are trying to determine who the Wyandotte County coronavirus victim came in contact with at the long-term care facility. KDHE confirmed the man’s death was related to the virus.
“We are working on identifying contacts right now,” KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said. “We understand the concern and encourage Kansans to remain vigilant.”
Gov. Laura Kelly issued an emergency declaration Thursday for the state of Kansas in response to COVID-19. The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria.
“The safety and well-being of Kansans is our priority, first and foremost,” Gov. Kelly said in a news release. “The landscape of COVID-19 is fast-changing. Today is evidence of that.”
Earlier that day, Rep. Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, said lawmakers were working to ensure additional funding would be allocated in the state budget to KDHE and other agencies to provide the resources needed to combat the coronavirus.
“We are, on every level, committed to doing all we can to make sure this state is prepared to handle COVID-19,” Vickrey said. “I’m trying to be optimistic but also deal with the reality that we will see more cases.”
From the state capital, Vickrey talked about briefings lawmakers have received about the virus.
Vickrey said he thought state Rep. John Eplee, an Atchison physician, described it best when he said, paraphrasing: The tsunami warning has gone off so you know the wave is coming. It’s time to head uphill and make the best preparations possible in case the wave doesn’t dissipate and it hits you.
Vickrey urged Kansans to not panic but exercise good hygiene habits and do not go to work if they are ill. He said Kansans should stay informed about the virus.
“It’s a different challenge than we’ve had before, but we will get through this,” he said.