Kansas launches statewide COVID-19 testing strategy with goal of testing 60,000 per month through December

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks at a COVID-19 news briefing on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

TOPEKA — Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Kansas has finally secured the necessary infrastructure and testing supplies to launch a statewide strategy to test at least 60,000 Kansans — or 2% of the state population — for the respiratory virus per month over the next six months, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday.

The strategy will focus on more rapid deployment of testing in areas with higher concentrations of the virus, a closer monitoring of the state’s testing supplies, and the use of four types of testing facilities to distribute COVID-19 tests: KDHE labs, mobile labs, commercial labs, and local reference labs.

“I know this crisis has created hardships for many families, businesses and their communities. I know Kansans are anxious to return to their many summertime activities,” Kelly said. “Today’s announcement will continue to aid Kansas in the progress that will allow us to return to normal. But we must do so safely so the sacrifices we all made will not be in vain.”

The state Department of Health and Environment, Kelly said, has also launched a real-time map on the department website of all COVID-19 testing sites in Kansas.

Kelly said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will deliver “large quantities” of testing supplies to help Kansas meet the demand to test 60,000 people monthly.

KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Thursday that the state at this time is still prioritizing symptomatic individuals when evaluating who should receive a COVID-19 test. The reason for that isn’t necessarily that there aren’t enough tests to administer to asymptomatic individuals, but that there isn’t an effective test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Food and Drug Administration to test those not presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

“Testing is complicated,” Norman said. “(Right now) we need a more rapid deployment force.”

Norman clarified Thursday that though a statewide strategy is now in place, COVID-19 testing in Kansas is still not on-demand. The testing strategy will allow for more Kansans to be tested, but in most situations a person still needs to be exhibiting symptoms of the virus to get a test through a KDHE lab.

In some situations, such as a COVID-19 outbreak area, according to the strategy, asymptomatic people can be recommended for testing at either a KDHE lab or private laboratory by a doctor.

The new mobile lab unveiled as part of the testing strategy will first be deployed to Reno and Wyandotte counties, Norman said, but didn’t specify how soon the mobile lab — which he described as essentially a van — will start operating.

Kansas as of Wednesday has confirmed 10,812 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, which has taken the lives of 240 Kansans. Just under 4% of patients received a positive test result in the latest round of testing, and overall, Kansans tested for the virus have tested positive at an 8.8% rate.

KDHE will release new COVID-19 data Friday afternoon.


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