State agency could run out of most COVID-19 test kits soon, as Kansas cases top 40

photo by: Associated Press

Dr. Lee Norman, right, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, answers questions from reporters as an interpreter translates his comments into sign language, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Topeka, Kan. Dr. Norman says the department could all but run out of coronavirus testing kits within two days, forcing the state to rely on private labs. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Story updated at 6:30 p.m. Friday

TOPEKA — Kansas’ health department is “precariously low” on coronavirus testing kits and could be forced to rely on private labs, potentially delaying results, the agency’s top administrator said Friday.

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Department of Health and Environment, said that testing wouldn’t stop altogether if the agency ran out of kits because it would hold back a few for infected people who’ve been hospitalized. Four private lab companies are doing testing, though Norman said they typically take longer to report their results than the state’s one-day turnaround.

Norman said during a briefing that the state has enough testing kits for about 300 patients, and it’s doing testing for between 150 and 300 a day, suggesting the health department could run out this weekend. The department later said it found kits for another 100 people, but that’s not even a full day’s supply.

The health department has been providing free testing for local agencies and hospitals, and private lab tests will come with a cost of roughly $200.

“Everybody’s struggling with this,” Norman said.

Norman said his department is helping hospitals start their own testing.

Kansas has had more than 40 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including one death, with 10 new confirmed cases reported Friday alone. The vast majority of infected people recover and most people have mild or moderate symptoms, but the virus can lead to serious illnesses in some people, particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions.

The state Department for Children and Families announced Friday that it will close its offices indefinitely, starting Monday. It said it will continue to investigate child abuse or neglect and process applications for services. It will take applications online and at drop boxes outside its offices.


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