TOPEKA – The secretary of Kansas’ health department ordered continuation of COVID-19 testing of staff and residents at all state-licensed adult care facilities despite the decision by legislative leaders to let expire the state disaster declaration imposed in response to the pandemic.
Gov. Laura Kelly sought extension of the emergency declaration and maintenance of a testing requirement for people working or living at nursing homes, adult daycare centers and facilities serving people with mental illness or an intellectual disability. House and Senate Republicans declined to sustain the state disaster declaration, which expired June 15.
Lee Norman, secretary at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, relied on his authority as the state’s health officer to require COVID-19 testing at these Kansas-licensed adult care facilities. His order was to be effective June 18 and remain in place until modified or rescinded. He issued the order at the Democratic governor’s direction.
Vaccinated staff won’t be subject to the statewide testing order, officials said. The KDHE order won’t alter visitation policies, but does require facilities to screen staff each shift and residents daily for symptoms of the virus. The routine screening applies to vendors, volunteers and visitors.
“This order ensures that vulnerable populations in Kansas’ adult care facilities continue to receive the testing needed to continue combatting COVID-19,” Norman said.
Norman encouraged staff of adult care homes to be vaccinated. KDHE’s directive aligned with testing guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Laura Howard, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said screening, testing, vaccination and infection control were cornerstones of the campaign to reduce spread of COVID-19.
“Dr. Norman’s order is important to maintain the health and well-being of residents and other staff members who work in long-term care and the tremendous progress we’ve made in reducing the number of people sick with COVID-19 and the number of facilities with active outbreaks,” Howard said.
KDHE reported that as of June 18 there had been 316,539 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 10,959 hospitalizations and 5,129 fatalities in Kansas. In the past month, the state logged an increase of 4,400 cases, 450 hospitalizations and 89 deaths.