TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas expects to receive 870,000 rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government over the next three months to boost testing in potential hot spots, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday.
Kelly made the announcement as the state saw a record increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations. She said the new tests are crucial for a new statewide policy of more testing of people without virus symptoms in areas with high infection rates and increasing routine testing in schools, nursing homes and prisons.
The state already has received its first 57,000 tests, Kelly said.
Kansas saw an average of more than 523.56 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases a day in August and September, and the total now approaches 63,000 for the pandemic. The state Department of Health and Environment also reported Monday that Kansas has had 3,036 people hospitalized because of the virus, including 53 since Friday. The state averaged 26.29 new hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Monday, 10% more than the previous record of 23.86 for the seven days ending Friday.
“I think it makes even more important — makes clear the importance of — everyone doing their part to stop the spread,” Kelly said during a Statehouse news conference. “We’ve been on a plateau now for quite a while, where, you know, we’re averaging over 500 cases, new cases, per day. You know, that’s not sustainable.”
President Donald Trump announced last week that 100 million rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott Laboratories would be shipped to states and urged them to use them to reopen schools. The company’s rapid test delivers results in about 15 minutes.
Trump’s announcement came only days before he tested positive for the coronavirus himself. After several days of treatment at a military hospital, the president tweeted Monday, “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Kelly has spent months warning Kansas residents that the coronavirus is potentially dangerous and far more serious than the flu. The Democratic governor has been forced by the Republican-controlled Legislature to accept local officials’ control over mandating mask wearing, restricting businesses and public gatherings and deciding when K-12 schools would reopen.
The governor declined Monday to respond to Trump’s remarks after discussing how the state would use its new tests.
“We know that we’re going to target our high-risk areas,” Kelly said. “We’ll start with schools.”
The state health department reported that Kansas saw 1,597 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Friday, an increase of 2.5%, bringing the total cases to 62,708. The number of coronavirus cases is thought to be higher because people can be infected without feeling ill and because of limited testing early in the pandemic.
The department also reported eight new COVID-19-related deaths since Friday, bringing the total to 706. Deaths have continued to represent about 1.1% of the total number of reported cases.
About 40 educators, parents and others on Monday protested the decision by the Lawrence School Board last week to shift to a hybrid learning model. The school had begun the year with remote learning.
Lawrence teachers and paraeducators held a “remote teach-in” in front of the district’s administration offices while also online with their students.
Hannah Allison, chair of the Paraeducators Union of Lawrence, said the group wants to extend and improve remote learning and not go to a hybrid model because the workload is “so much that we wouldn’t be able to do it and we wouldn’t be able to care for our own children at home.”
The group is asking to extend and improve remote learning so they have time to go back to school safely, she said.
“We — as paraeducators and teachers and students and parents — we believe that the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution and so we should be a part of crafting a plan for what it looks like to return to in-person,” Allison said.