The number of COVID-19 cases in Labette County associated with Chetopa Manor has climbed by three.

Lisa Stivers, the Labette County Health Department administrator, told the Local Emergency Planning Committee Thursday morning that the county now has had 53 cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Chetopa Manor accounted for 26 of those cases earlier this week, but now two more staff members have tested positive.

The Manor staff was testing residents and staff Thursday and will continue these tests weekly for those who have tested negative, Stivers said.

“Because there is no point in testing the positives again. We have our guidelines to follow as to when they are considered recovered. They could still test positive for weeks as the virus is still shedding, but that doesn’t mean they’re contagious. So we will retest weekly until we have no new positives for 28 days. Once we reach that 28 days of no new positives, that outbreak will be considered over,” Stivers told committee members.

The LEPC meets monthly to review safety guidelines and the county’s response to emergencies. Meetings have been more frequent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stivers said a family of one of the Manor staff has tested positive. She didn’t specify the number of positive tests. 

Another committee member said Manor employees have family working at the Southeast Unit of the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Oswego. Randall Bowman, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, told the Sun later Thursday that the Southeast Unit has no cases of COVID-19 but the facility sent home on administrative leave employees who have household members working at the Manor.

“That will continue as long as necessary,” Bowman said.

Stivers also told the committee that the 17-year-old who was the first to test positive at the Manor was free from isolation as of Thursday. Stivers said the teenager has posted this on her Facebook page.

Most of the COVID-19 cases related to the outbreak have no symptoms. A few have had mild to moderate symptoms. One is hospitalized with severe symptoms, Stivers said.

Stivers said a number of the employees will be coming off of isolation early next week and will return to work by Tuesday.

Manor staff also spoke during the meeting. One person, who was not identified, said the residents who tested positive are quarantined to a separate hall. She said the Manor could use more personal protective equipment. Charlie Morse, the Labette County Emergency Management director, said the state wants businesses to get what they can on the open market, though it’s more expensive now. Morse said he has some still available and has borrowed gowns from the hospital to distribute.

Suzanne Cotton, nurse administrator at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center, which was involved in the first cluster of COVID-19 cases in Labette County, said things are going well on campus with no new cases. Staff and resident temperatures are monitored and residents living in units are not allowed to cohort. Social distancing is implemented and masks are worn.

“It seems to be effective for now, knock on wood,” Cotton said.

She said the earlier outbreak was quickly contained and limited to residents in one living unit. 

“We’ve been very fortunate. And we will continue to be diligent and watchful,” Cotton said.

Brandy Grassl, the county’s 911 director and Emergency Management coordinator, said a dispatcher became ill Wednesday and was tested for COVID-19. The dispatcher is from Chetopa. The 911 center is already short staffed, Grassl said.

The two sheriff’s deputies are now out of isolation. They were isolated because of contact with positive COVID-19 cases because they interacted with two juvenile runaways earlier in the month.

Chetopa-St. Paul USD 505 Superintendent Bobbie Williams told committee members Chetopa implemented changes because of the Manor outbreak. Chetopa stopped its summer weights and conditioning program and closed school buildings to the public. She also manages the local farmers’ market and that’s been shut down for two weeks at least. The city’s July 4th celebration has been canceled, though the fireworks display will go on as planned. Citizens who attend the event are asked to stay in their vehicles.

“Most businesses have locked their doors, just doing business by phone or curbside service,” Williams said.

She said the fact that the first positive case at the Manor was a teenager concerns her. Kids are not good at following rules and directions, she said, thinking of when schools reopen in the fall.

“That makes me a little nervous,” Williams said.

Committee members heard other updates as well, including hearing about a $3.9 million infusion the county will receive for COVID-19 related expenses that can be shared with other entities. The money should come by July 15. Commissioners haven’t determined how the money will be shared.

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