Gov. Kelly says Kansas could exhaust its protective gear by next week

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas could run out of personal protective equipment for medical personnel and others dealing directly with the coronavirus pandemic by the middle of next week, Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday.

The news comes as the state saw its largest spike in the number of COVID-19-related deaths since the outbreak began.

The Democratic governor’s warning came a day after she sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s administration as unprepared.

She said Kansas received a shipment of personal protective equipment from the federal government, including masks and gloves, late Thursday, but that six requests for more equipment have yet to be filled.

Kelly and the state Department of Health and Environment didn’t say how much equipment Kansas had received or how much more it was requesting. But the governor said supplies will last only until Tuesday.

“We will absolutely clear it out,” Kelly said during a daily coronavirus briefing at the Statehouse. “Everything will go down to our local county health officials for distribution to their health facilities, so that’s got to get restocked.”

COVID-19-related deaths reported in Kansas jumped by five Friday to 18. Three of those deaths were in Johnson County, two men in their 80s and a woman in her 70s, and one was in neighboring Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area. Leavenworth County also reported its first, a woman in her 50s.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases grew in a single day to 620, up 68, or 12%. Forty-five of the state’s 105 counties have a confirmed case.

Most infected people develop mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within three weeks, such as fever and cough. But older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Kansas has turned to private companies to help restock its protective equipment supplies, but Kelly said the state has seen orders diverted to other states or the federal government.

“We’re hoping though that at least some of that will reach Kansas by Tuesday, before we’re completely out,” she said.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday that state and local agencies have filed some of the roughly dozen complaints alleging price-gouging by providers of emergency supplies. State law limits price increases for necessary goods and services during an emergency.

Schmidt said his office has received more than 160 complaints since March 12, when Kelly declared a state of emergency. He said many came from consumers upset over retail prices.

Meanwhile, several groups, including the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Midwest Innocence Project, urged Kansas to release medically fragile and older adult inmates from prison, to make social distancing easier and to protect inmates who have underlying health conditions.

Three staff members at the state prison in Lansing have tested positive for the coronavirus, and about 15 inmates are in isolation. A detention deputy at the Sedgwick County jail also has the virus.

The state has no plans to release inmates early, an option Schmidt described as “a last resort.”

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