Apr 3, 2020
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 3
Governor Laura Kelly: (00:00)
Much of our world has changed in such a short period of time. The nature of this global pandemic requires that we take many things day by day, hour by hour. But as governor, I also must think about the economic challenges I know will be waiting for Kansas once we get to the other side of this public health emergency, and that’s what I want to talk about today. Kansas jobs and small businesses and how we can support them, save them, and create them when the danger of COVID-19 is behind us. First and foremost, this morning, I signed Senate Bill 173, the bipartisan bill establishing a new 10 year transportation plan.
Governor Laura Kelly: (00:49)
This plan is something my administration has been working on since I took office just over a year ago. Developed in consultation with local communities and nearly 2,000 stakeholders. It offers a visionary approach to Kansas infrastructure so that our state has the flexibility to address immediate needs and secure more opportunities for the future. Investing in Kansas’ infrastructure means putting people to work. It means fixing our roads and bridges. It means safer transportation for our most precious cargo, our children.
Governor Laura Kelly: (01:28)
Key elements of the program include promises kept, all remaining T-Works projects will be let for construction by July 1, 2023. Highway preservation is prioritized. The legislation requires KDOT, the department of transportation, to establish metrics, making sure highway preservation needs are fully funded before adding to the current highway system. The rolling approach ensures emerging needs can be met instead of a once a decade, 10 year set list of projects, new modernization and expansion projects will be selected for the development pipeline every two years.
Governor Laura Kelly: (02:16)
Every regional state will see modernization and expansion work sooner than later. The bill requires KDOT to develop minimum spending ranges for KDOT districts using a metric driven process and 40% of the minimum investment must occur within the first five years of the program. T-Works projects must be delivered and are not included in the minimums. Every Kansas county will receive at least $8 million in transportation improvements. Broadband and new technology investments are included to facilitate expansion and prepare Kansas infrastructure for improved and communication.
Governor Laura Kelly: (03:01)
I want to commend my transportation secretary, Julie Lorenz, as well as the bipartisan work of our legislators, especially Senate Ways and Means Chair Carolyn McGinn for the overwhelming support and work on this legislation. Its swift passage is important to help the Kansas economy recover when this public health pandemic passes. Secondly, the Paycheck Protection Program, a new $350 billion program included in the Emergency Relief Package passed by Congress last week, formally launched today through the Small Business Administration. The program offers companies and nonprofits with up to 500 workers a low interest loan to cover up to two months of payroll and other expenses.
Governor Laura Kelly: (03:53)
Small Business Administration will forgive the loan if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage, interest, or utilities. This program will help Kansas small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll and will be available through June 30, 2020. I know Kansas small business owners are doing everything they can to hold onto their employees and keep their businesses afloat until we get through the worst of this crisis. The Paycheck Protection Program will serve as a lifeline for the next several weeks as we hopefully get our economy up and running again.
Governor Laura Kelly: (04:36)
That said, it’s very important to understand that the Small Business Administration lenders across the nation are bracing for an onslaught of applications now that the program is officially live. The Kansas banking industry is working incredibly hard to assist businesses across Kansas in need of this financial relief. Unfortunately, Kansas banks only received the final rules and guidance relating to the Paycheck Protection Program from the federal government late last night. While there are some Kansas banks that regularly work with SBA lending programs that we’ll be able to begin the process of accepting applications for the program today, it will take some time for most Kansas banks to review and implement the guidance.
Governor Laura Kelly: (05:27)
So although I encourage qualifying small businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, please be patient with your local lender as they work through these federal rules and regulations as quickly as possible. Our bankers are doing everything they can to serve their customers, but it’s going to take some time to process the applications. This week, we also launched a new jobs website through the Kansas Department of Commerce, connecting job seekers with Kansas businesses hiring to fill urgent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Laura Kelly: (06:06)
The COVID-19 job site, kansasworks.com/coronavirus, allows employers from essential industries to quickly and easily post critical positions that need to be filled to support activities related to helping individuals and businesses during the crisis. The site which is available at no cost to employers or job seekers will be updated continuously as businesses add new jobs to the system. Job seekers can visit the site to find companies hiring for COVID-19 related positions and quickly access company hiring portals. Again to access the COVID jobs website, visit kansasworks.com/coronavirus.
Governor Laura Kelly: (06:58)
Finally, we’re joined here today by President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Matt All, to announce that Blue Cross Blue Shield will waive cost sharing for treatment of COVID-19 for the next 60 days. This includes coverage for testing and treatment administered at a doctor’s office, an urgent care facility and emergency room as well as inpatient hospital stays. This announcement applies to fully insured members along with those who receive their insurance through Medicare Advantage plans. Blue Cross will also work with self-funded customers who want to implement a similar approach so that these members’ needs can also be met during this time of concern.
Governor Laura Kelly: (07:50)
Blue Cross and Blue Shield has already expanded coverage to help members by waving member cost-sharing, including copays and deductibles until May 15th, for medically necessary diagnostic tests related to COVID-19 and the cost of the visit to a doctor’s office, urgent care tele-health in emergency room used for diagnostic testing of COVID-19. Related services like flu tests and respiratory tests provided during urgent care, emergency room or in person or tele-health provided visits that result in an order for or administration of a covered diagnostic test for COVID-19.
Governor Laura Kelly: (08:34)
Telehealth services for any visit that is medically reasonable to be done using this technology. The visit does not have to be specific to the COVID-19 testing. Blue Cross will also allow members to refill prescription medications before they’re due to be refilled. I applaud Blue Cross taking this action. Thousands of Kansans rely upon Blue Cross for their health insurance and I want to thank Matt All and his team for his leadership, especially in these financially and emotionally difficult times. This is the definition of what it means to be a Kansan.
Governor Laura Kelly: (09:13)
Matt is here to answer any additional questions you may have after the press conference. And with that, I will hand it over to the Secretary of Health and Environment, Dr. Lee Norman.
Dr. Lee Norman: (09:24)
Thank you, Governor. Let’s start off with today’s numbers in terms of case counts. We today have 620 positive coronavirus cases in the state of Kansas. That represents 138 new cases over the past two days. And we’ve talked in the past about what we expect the rate of growth to be and until it levels off and turns a corner and starts coming down. And that’s right on the upward slope of the Nike swoosh, just like we have talked about in the past. So it’s unfortunately as we’ve predicted but optimistic that we will be reaching the peak of that in the not too distant future.
Dr. Lee Norman: (10:03)
We now do about only 20% of the testing in our Kansas Health and Environment Laboratory. The other 80% are done by commercial labs. I still report that 6,454 negatives. So by far and away, most of the testing we do is still are negative tests. We’ve had 17 deaths to date in the state of Kansas. And again, some people I know have started doing the math and saying well that’s 17 out of 620 positives and how many negatives there are. We have to remember there’s a lot of testing that’s being done out there that don’t come into our numbers.
Dr. Lee Norman: (10:41)
We, in our agency, only hear about the positive tests because that’s a reportable disease. To testing, we have struggled, as you know, to get the materials we need. The SFE add the new test, which is the rapid test has arrived. We have test kits, roughly 900 right now. It’s a 45 minute test. You know that we hadn’t been four to six hours turnaround, so much more rapid, which will ultimately help us to do more population testing and not just testing ill people. We’ll get a lot more of those tests gets coming in. As you can imagine, it was only approved by the FDA on 21st of March, so there’s a terrific demand nationwide, worldwide really.
Dr. Lee Norman: (11:23)
But I think we are going to have a supply probably very soon to do what we want to do, which is really to take this to the next echelon, which is population testing. We have a second platform that we’ve added. The Perkins Elmer Test is actually essentially what we’ve been doing, but we’ve added a fourth platform on for the same one, which will allow us to escalate to 700 to 1,000 tests per day with that particular platform. Really good news that will allow us to set up testing stations and other advanced ways to screen, so we can really answer the question, what is the real burden of disease out there?
Dr. Lee Norman: (11:58)
It’s becoming abundantly clear worldwide as well as in the United States that there’s populations, particularly in the 20 to 35-year-olds that are certainly having the illness and transmitting it, but they’re not particularly symptomatic. We really want to get a handle so he can do early identification so as to prevent the spread and have earlier isolation and quarantine. As we predicted, unfortunately, there’s clusters of cases that have occurred mostly in residential centers or where people have restricted mobility, memory care units, longterm care facilities in the state that we have in Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Coffee County where either the caregivers and/or residents have contracted the illness and so we’re having to be very careful.
Dr. Lee Norman: (12:45)
We’re working with hospitals and when patients are discharged from the hospital, what does it take for somebody to be a negative by the time they leave the hospital to go back, for example, to a nursing home. We want to make sure that we contain, contain, contain where people are after they’ve been positive for coronavirus. I actually think we’ve done a pretty good job once we’ve identified a person who having the illness. The Lansing Correctional Facility, we continue to monitor KDAG. We are managing the oversight of the contact investigation for offenders and staff.
Dr. Lee Norman: (13:20)
The local health departments are managing the community contacts of the three correctional facilities’ staff members who of course live in the community. And I think we put together I think an educational video that went to all the correctional facilities and I think it’s been well received. Education goes a long ways. Finally, scorecard, I didn’t realize it was going to cause such a stir the other day. The scorecard for social distancing. How much are people moving around? And there’s a number of different programs. They’re available to every body who goes onto the internet, by the way.
Dr. Lee Norman: (13:54)
It’s not something that we invented here in the state of Kansas. The unicast was the one I quoted last week. There’s now one on Google called the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report and I think you’d find it fascinating to go there. And basically what it says is either one of them stay home. The people are still moving around more. It’s fascinating. We recognize that we are making improvements and I think that this is going to lead to the, when we peak out, which will be sometime in April, the quicker we get to the on 36% where we are now, which would be about a C minus compared to other states, I might add.
Dr. Lee Norman: (14:36)
The quicker we get to 45% and 55% is when we’ll make huge incremental improvements in the decrease in the contagion time of the disease. So we cannot let up on social distancing and stay at home. That’s my final comments, Governor.
Governor Laura Kelly: (14:55)
Okay. Any questions?
Speaker 3: (14:59)
You mentioned receiving the last shipment from the national stockpile. Can you clarify what you’re talking about when you say national stockpile? Is it PPE? Is it all the [inaudible 00:15:10]? What [inaudible 00:15:11]?
Governor Laura Kelly: (15:14)
Okay. I think it’s all of the above. It’s the whole host of equipment, tests, all of those kinds of things. What was in the stockpile? We really, the supplies and equipment that had come in through Health and Human Services, HHS, at the federal level that has all now, all that we’re going to get. We really got 90% of the Kansas allocation. We’re told that we will not get that other 10%. They will send that elsewhere that they think more in need. The requests that we have put in now since mid-March really have gone to FEMA. FEMA will take over this distribution or they are supposed to be taking over this distribution.
Governor Laura Kelly: (16:03)
As I said yesterday, we have put in five, I think now six requests and we have yet to receive those shipments. We are hoping that they will come in because we plan to really clear out our inventory by next Tuesday. We will absolutely clear it out. Everything will go down to our local county health officials for distribution to their health facilities. So that’s got to get restocked. We do expect that we could get some in from the private companies that we’ve also ordered from. We’ve experienced shipping delays with them or sort of the diversion of orders that we put in either to other states or even to the federal government.
Governor Laura Kelly: (16:57)
So we’re hoping though that at least some of that will reach Kansas by Tuesday before we’re completely out.
[inaudible 00:17:08] masks folks just walking around.
Governor Laura Kelly: (17:13)
What are you talking about, like you wearing a mask?
Governor Laura Kelly: (17:17)
Actually, I don’t think that’s a bad idea, Martin. But for other, no.
Governor Laura Kelly: (17:26)
Right now, it’s critical that we get the personal protective equipment to our frontline people, into our first responders, to our healthcare workers. That’s where we have to focus our energies right now. The issue of whether the individual citizen, I don’t think that the jury’s in on that yet. But even if the jury were in, the supplies aren’t there. So right now, we need to make sure we’re getting them to our hospitals and to our fire departments and other emergency management folks.
Speaker 5: (17:59)
To follow up on that. See a lot of people wearing homemade masks and some sort of thing. I saw people with toilet paper stuck up their nose in the grocery store. That was a new one. The homemade masks or any sort of homemade preventative measures, where does that … This is [inaudible 00:18:15] but what does that really do? Is it actually effective?
Governor Laura Kelly: (18:20)
Well, I’ll let him talk about the efficacy of it. I think the one thing I would caution people is that when you put something over your face you’re going to be trapping some of your exhalations and you might be trapping those in that. So if you’re going to do that, make sure that you clean it regularly rather than letting it essentially become a Petri dish.
Dr. Lee Norman: (18:47)
If I may add, well first I agree, they get nasty, let’s start with that, behind there because for the reason the governor said. They also don’t work very well but we are investigating it. And it’s interesting because when you look at South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, for example, everybody wears a mask. Even people who are not ill, just out living freely in the community. It’s also quite a social dynamic is that it encourages people to distance because you’re less likely to get up close to somebody that’s wearing a mask. It’s just part of a basic belief set, which is that person is best avoided.
Dr. Lee Norman: (19:25)
And it’s thought that it actually probably improves the social distancing as much as it, because we know that if, and I won’t go into how graphic sneezing through a cotton mask is, but it’s pretty dramatic what it doesn’t stop and that is the things that are infectious.
Speaker 6: (19:44)
Do you have any concerns with … You may have seen the op-ed in The New York Times a few days ago about a Yale physician was concerned false negative with testing that involves the [inaudible 00:19:53] that you need. So what’s the issue with false negatives?
Dr. Lee Norman: (20:04)
Yes. The question is about false negatives and anytime you do any kind of a test, there’s always the risk of false positives and false negatives. I have immense confidence in our testing that we do in our state lab. And the reason is, and I may have commented this a few weeks ago, the flexible swabs that go way back there and to get the sample. Also, then when we use them in our laboratory, we test for human cells. Because if there’s not human DNA in there, then it means that it wasn’t a deep enough swab. So it’s a quality control thing. It’s 95 plus percent sensitive.
Dr. Lee Norman: (20:39)
I do have that concern as does he for the self administered things. People aren’t willing to make that swab as uncomfortable as it needs to be or oral things. There’s different methods that are being experimented with and if you don’t have a quality control mechanism like I mentioned with the human cells and human DNA to know that it’s a good sample, then that risk is unacceptably high of false negatives. And it’s really a concern because a false negative means that you have somebody that’s out in the community that thinks that everything’s fine.
Dr. Lee Norman: (21:13)
And that’s why, again, if I mentioned social distancing, even if you have a false negative but you’re sick or you might’ve been exposed, it’s still important because then it may lead to retesting and then a true positive.
Speaker 7: (21:25)
Secretary Norman, we’ve heard some people that have been tested, they’re having to wait a little bit longer for their results than they’ve been told that they would wait. Have you heard about those kinds of testing backlogs or those occurrences?
Dr. Lee Norman: (21:39)
Yes. The question was why the long backlogs on some testing. I know ours in our laboratory is 1.05 days, so it’s just barely over a day from when we get the sample in. I think the commercial labs, they’re very high volume and rapid throughput, but they’re not like necessarily local. Some go to Virginia, some go to California, so there’s a transit time to get the turnaround. Very encouraging. A good example is KU Hospital. Now for the last eight days has done their own testing onsite. We’ve assisted them and they are able to get access now to the reagents.
Dr. Lee Norman: (22:15)
They do the testing twice a day. So they essentially, it’s not real time, but it’s certainly same day testing. And so the closer the testing is done to home, whether in a complex lab, like a KU or one of the Wichita hospitals, etc., or in our own state lab, the quicker the turnaround time is because you don’t have the add in the transit time.
Speaker 8: (22:43)
Drop it down one. You go down one.
Speaker 9: (22:45)
Testing, test, mic test.
Speaker 8: (22:47)
Check one, two, one, two. You might go down one more.
Speaker 9: (22:49)
Testing, test mic test.
Speaker 8: (22:50)
For you all. It hasn’t changed my tride. It’s still the same. It’s fine. Check one, two. Do a sound check. So I’m not sure. I think avid has a pretty good talking voice.
Speaker 9: (23:05)
Testing, test mic test. One, two, three.
Speaker 8: (23:09)
Projection, so that might not be great, but as long as you’re focusing on the recording and not the room quality, I think you should be fine. Yeah, he’s going to be over to my side. So are you good up there, Alison? I’m sorry. So Allison’s getting everybody in the room. Good.