Health Department: No known cases of COVID-19 in Reno County

By Aaron Strain and Leslie Grajeda
Staff writers

The latest from the Reno County Health Department:

As of 10:20 AM today, the Health Department reported no known cases of COVID-19 within the county and recommended limiting public events to under 50 people. 

“Please practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing, proper respiratory etiquettes such as coughing and sneezing into your elbow bend, limit handshakes and physical contact. Stay home if you are feeling ill and call your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms.”

Local response

Schools across the state have closed for the week, essentially extending spring breaks a week early. Through March 20, Hutchinson Public Schools will distribute meals to all its students 18-years old and younger, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. More information is available on USD 308’s Facebook page.

The Hutchinson Fire Department canceled all community events and station tours.

The City of Hutchinson advised residents to pay their water bills online or over the phone.

The Reno County Correctional Facility canceled all in-person visitations to inmates, not including Attorneys of Record.

All KSHSAA activities were suspended at least through March 22, pending any decision by public health officials.

The Cosmosphere will be closed at least through April 1 and will provide at-home science experiments for families.

The Walmart in Hutchinson indefinitely dropped its hours, now only open from 6 AM to 11 PM.

Emergency department heads meet

The Reno County Local Emergency Planning Committee met on Friday with the goal of becoming the centralized body for the local response to COVID-19. Further public meetings are expected as the pandemic continues to spread.

Reno County Health Department Director Nick Baldetti led the discussion. 

“The virus is present in the state of Kansas. To what extent, we do not know yet,” Baldetti said. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” COVID-19 reaches the community. 

Baldetti urged residents “to take preparedness cautions and to use the best practices to prevent as much as we can its spread.” However, he said, “now is not the time to panic and buy every roll of toilet paper on the shelves or baby wipes. The rationality of that behavior makes no sense.”

Reno County EMS Chief Dave Johnston said dispatchers are screening 911 callers with questions regarding symptoms of COVID-19. If a patient says they are showing those symptoms, EMTs will respond wearing the necessary protective gear to prevent exposure.

Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper said his office is restricting his officers from certain calls where the risk of exposure to officers is uncertain. He also said dispatchers are being kept as separated as possible from responders and that a backup facility exists if dispatchers are exposed.

Retirement communities restrict visitors

Officials from Mennonite Friendship Communities and Wesley Towers said they are limiting visits to only those deemed medically necessary. Both are working on technological solutions for visitors to communicate with loved ones.

The retirement communities are screening residents, essential care personnel and staff for fevers and other symptoms of the virus.

Further information

More information about the coronavirus, including symptoms and how to proceed if you are feeling ill, can be found on the KDHE website at kdheks.gov/coronavirus. The website and public releases are updated daily by 5 PM. Alternatively, call the KDHE phone bank during regular business hours at 1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF) or email COVID-19@ks.gov. These lines do not provide medical evaluations.

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