TOPEKA — The number of coronavirus cases in Kansas grew to six Friday with the diagnosis of the first case outside the Kansas City metropolitan area.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the new case is a man in his 70s from Butler County, east of Wichita. The man, who had traveled outside the U.S., is in isolation and health officials are reaching out to people who might have had contact with him.
"Kansans should remain vigilant," Dr. Lee Norman, the KDHE secretary, said in a written statement. "It's important to live your lives, but it's also important to take basic precautions like exercising good hygiene practices. It is up to each of us to do our part."
The announcement came one day after Gov. Laura Kelly announced the state's first death, a non-mobile man in his 70s who was infected in a Wyandotte County nursing home by community spread. State officials said they didn't know whether other residents were ill or were being tested.
Four other COVID-19 cases have been reported in neighboring Johnson County, also in the Kansas City metropolitan area. All of them become infected while traveling out of state.
Meanwhile, the Sumner Community Hospital in Wellington abruptly closed its doors Thursday telling employees they no longer have jobs, KAKE-TV reports. Neither the hospital nor KDHE immediately returned phone messages. Small hospitals in the state have been struggling financially, and there was no indication that the closure was related to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic.
Kelly has declared a state of emergency to make it easier for the state to mobilize its resources, and large gatherings at the Statehouse have been banned. Visitors will be limited to only people who have business before the Legislature, which is in session.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
News of the death followed a flurry of announcements from universities and colleges, including the University of Kansas and Kansas State, that they were moving their classes online. Public school officials contemplated closing schools to mitigate the threat.
In the Kansas City area, the Olathe district started spring break one day early, The Kansas City Star reported. Meanwhile, the nearby Shawnee Mission school district is requiring students and teachers to take home devices and materials before spring break begins next week, in preparation for a potential school closure. Extensive cleaning is planned in both districts.
Following Kelly's announcement, the Kansas State High School Activities Association announced that the 2020 state basketball tournaments have been canceled, meaning there will be no state champion for the first time since 1907.
KSHSAA assistant executive director Mark Lentz said the vote was "unanimous," The Wichita Eagle reports.
Other events around the state have been canceled or suspended, including a Harlem Globetrotters game at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Topeka also was canceled.
The Kansas Supreme Court ordered the state's courts to make a plan to keep critical functions running amid the outbreak. Meanwhile, several hospitals announced that they were restricting access to visitors, including those in Wichita and Lawrence. Nursing homes, several of them in the Wichita area, also rolled out restrictions.