More tests, hospital beds, ventilators, research may be necessary to fight coronavirus

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas saw its biggest increase in coronavirus cases on Wednesday, totaling 26 more from Tuesday.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is preparing in case those numbers continue to rise.

KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said at a press conference on Wednesday that a task force is discussing the best ways to limit the spread of the virus and how the state would treat a high number of people if many more get sick.

Norman said that health officials are hard at work trying to figure out what the virus is doing in the state of Kansas and where it could go from its current stage.

“We would have the ability to forecast what would be necessary,” Norman said.

He said there is a need for more tests to get an accurate number of how many people are getting infected.

The department hopes to get faster, 45-minute tests in Kansas soon, have hospitals administer tests on their own, and to create satellite locations to get increased samples from people.

Norman said more research needs to be happening in the state.

“What is the prevalence in the community, because someday, maybe a month from now, we’re going to say, ‘okay, the cases are where they are, whether it’s going up still, level, coming down, when do we relax restrictions, when are we going to become comfortable to return more toward normalcy,’ and the only way we’re going to really get there is by doing prevalent studies in the community,” Norman said.

In preparation for a possible surge in cases, Norman has also asked for 100 ventilators from the national stockpile.

He also said he is looking into what buildings could be turned into hospitals if needed, and that consolidating the state’s three VA hospitals into one building, and freeing up the other two for coronavirus patients has been considered.

“It really is one, what is the capacity that we now have, two, what is the capacity that we could build and add to,” Norman said. “What are the most likely scenarios, and what is the worst-case scenario.”

Norman said we don’t know if this is a seasonal virus, but we have to prepare now in case it lessens in the summer and comes back in the winter months.

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