Kansas making progress in implementing unified testing strategy, Kelly says; state joins bipartisan Rockefeller group tasked with COVID-19 solutions

photo by: Screenshot via Facebook Live

Communities and organizations across the state of Kansas can now apply to receive additional funding for COVID-19 testing through the state Department of Health and Environment, Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

KDHE late last week posted a request for proposals from state communities and organizations that are in need. The agency has $53 million to allocate toward increased testing, and the state should know by the week after next where the funds from the federal CARES Act stimulus will be allocated, Kelly said.

This effort is in tandem with Kansas’ new unified testing strategy, which seeks to streamline public and private COVID-19 testing efforts, as well as target additional testing needs to communities and areas with high virus spread — such as nursing homes, schools and correctional facilities.

“We’re now that much closer to getting these funds out the door and into the communities and facilities that need them the most,” Kelly said.

Kelly also announced Tuesday that Kansas has joined a bipartisan coalition of five other states, 21 municipalities and two Native American tribes called the Rockefeller Foundation COVID-19 Testing Solutions Group. The organization meets every two weeks to exchange best practices on fighting the respiratory virus, testing strategies, contact tracing efforts and more, she said.

“By participating in this group, Kansas will create a strong web of COVID testing information that stretches across the country and will strengthen our efforts to stay up to date on best testing practices, which we can then provide to our communities across Kansas,” she said.

Given recent updates in the state’s testing efforts and increased funding mechanisms, Kelly said she’s confident Kansas can turn around the spread of the virus. However, the current impact of COVID-19 in Kansas is still concerning, she said.

On Monday, KDHE announced that, since data was last released Friday, the state had recorded an increase of 2,055 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 67,862. The department also confirmed eight additional deaths attributed to the virus, which has now claimed the lives of 771 Kansans since the pandemic began in March.

The 2,055 new cases were out of 11,892 tests conducted, KDHE reported, a percent positive rate of 17.3%.

On Tuesday, Kelly said it’s clear that key metrics in the state are moving the wrong way. Last week, the state set a new record for average number of daily cases at over 700, and hospitals in some counties — mostly in rural areas — are beginning to reach capacity.

“I know that the past few months have been difficult for all of us,” Kelly said. “I know for those of you who diligently wear your masks, socially distance and avoid gatherings, your efforts can seem like they’re in vain when you hear news of our record-breaking numbers. But there is still time for us to turn our virus response efforts around … We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”

Kelly again encouraged Kansans to wear masks at all times where social distancing isn’t possible, wash their hands frequently, stay home when they feel ill, and listen to public health guidance.

KDHE will release COVID-19 data, as well as a new list of certain active outbreaks of the virus, on Wednesday afternoon.


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