OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Johnson County Health Department says a woman in her 50s has tested preemptively positive for COVID-19. She is associated with Johnson County Community College (JCCC) and is the first of five cases in the county of local transmission.
JCCC says it’s working with the health department to identify close contacts of the patient who tested positive. The health department will alert anyone who was exposed as soon as it knows.
“There are a ton of ‘what if’s’ we’re waiting to play out,” said Chris Gray, the Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing of JCCC. “Safety and security is our utmost priority. This brings it home,” Gray said.
Gray spoke with FOX4 by phone Saturday morning. He said the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment (KDHE) notified JCCC on Saturday morning.
Gray said KDHE did not give JCCC specifics on the patient. He does not know if this woman is a faculty member, for example, or a student, or if she worked in the food court.
“We want to know what everyone else is asking. But we also want to calm any panic; we just don’t have a lot of information.”
Gray said KDHE is working with the patient to retrace her steps around the metro.
That, said Gray, is a multiple day process. As KDHE works with the patient to identify places the patient was on campus, Gray said, it will contact JCCC’s Human Resources department. Human Resources will then provide the phone number of all people possibly exposed to the COVID-19 patient to KDHE. KDHE will then notify those people at JCCC who may have been exposed.
All that, Gray stressed, will happen by phone. He also stressed this is a multi-day process. Gray also said, “this is an active and extremely early case.”
“We are doing as much as we can to communicate out to the community. We are really leaning on the KDHE for its guidance.”
If you develop symptoms like a fever, cough, shortness of breath in the next two weeks, contact the health department at (913) 477-8343.
“It is important to remember to take basic precautions like washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home when you are ill. The local transmission has been expected, most people with mild symptoms will recover in a short amount of time” Mary Beverly, JCDHE interim director, stated in a news release.
JCCC is taking steps to mitigate the spread. Gray said it started heightening its cleaning around campus in the last two weeks. Its last event on campus, said Gray, was at 8:30 Friday night.
From March 23-29, campus will be closed and all activities and events are canceled. The community college will transition to online-only learning, and this time will be used to give instructors support for that effort. Only essential personnel are allowed on campus.
Effective March 30: All courses will be held remotely. Campus will be closed, students are encouraged to stay at home for the two weeks following spring break.
For more information from the health department, visit www.cdc.gov/COVID19 or www.jocogov.org/coronavirus. You can call the Kansas Department of Health and Environment phone bank at 1-866-534-3463 (1-866-KDHEINF) Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
FOX4 will have more about this story throughout Saturday on fox4kc.com, and during evening newscasts.