COVID-19 update: March 19, 2020

COVID-19 developments accelerated this week at a pace that can be difficult to keep up with. We are monitoring issuance of guidance and government action at the state and federal levels in order to provide you with succinct periodic summaries, knowing your time and focus is largely consumed with caring for your patients.

Shortly after our last COVID-19 update, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday afternoon that all K-12 classrooms would be closed for the remainder of the school year—with teaching activities to be transitioned to online modes—in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. To the same end, the governor also announced that effective March 23, most state employees will be directed to stay home for two weeks on administrative leave. The governor also issued orders temporarily prohibiting utilities from disconnecting services to Kansans for non-payment and temporarily barring evictions and foreclosures in the state. The governor also signed into law a bill that extends the current limit on unemployment compensation from 16 weeks to 26 weeks for most workers.

On Wednesday, KDHE issued a new mandate for those who are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Those include people who have traveled internationally, on a river or cruise ship, and to California, Florida, New York, or Washington state on or after March 15, as well as to any of four Colorado counties (Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, or Gunnison) the week prior to March 15. The KDHE mandate also includes further guidance on home quarantine and other steps recommended to prevent transmission of the virus. Today, KDHE announced new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kansas, bringing the total to 34. The agency’s daily surveillance updates are available at

At a press conference Wednesday, KDHE officials announced that testing for COVID-19 will be reduced in Johnson County, where the virus is spreading by community transmission. Only those hospitalized in the county with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested. Those with mild symptoms are asked to self-quarantine for at least seven days after symptoms start or 72 hours after their fever is gone. KDHE officials said the strategy was intended to prevent the state from exhausting available testing kits.

At the federal level, the CDC has not issued major guidance changes since the last KMS update. The agency has posted a one-page brief, “Prepare to Care for COVID-19: Get Your Practice Ready.” Also, the FDA recently updated its guidance on diagnostic testing relative to COVID-19.

The White House has recently held lengthy daily morning press conferences, but has not issued major guidance changes since Tuesday’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus.” 

On Wednesday, CMS announced that—effective March 6—Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country, including in patient’s places of residence.

Recent news reports have underlined the importance of relying on trusted sources for information, particularly as COVID-19 developments accelerate. For example, this week news reports circulated suggesting the WHO had recommended against using ibuprofen in confirmed COVID-19 patients. The WHO subsequently announced that there is no evidence of ibuprofen exacerbating the health of COVID-19 patients. It may be worth reminding your staff, friends, and family that the primary sources for all COVID-19 developments remain:

United States:

Finally, the Federation of State Professionals’ Health Programs (PHP) and the KMS PHP has compiled a list of free resources available that will hopefully assist you in maintaining your own health. If you need additional resources or emotional support at any time, the KMS PHP staff can be reached 24 hours a day at (785) 235-2383.