Gov. Laura Kelly praises White House for delivery of rapid tests for COVID-19

As death toll tops 700, governor warns Kansans not to ‘become numb to the loss of life’

Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday the state has received 57,000 rapid tests for COVID-19 from the federal government and will receive 870,000 by the end of the year (Sept. 28 file photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday praised the White House for its plans to distribute 150 million COVID-19 rapid tests to states, including 870,000 to Kansas.

The governor also pleaded again for Kansans to wear masks as the toll of the virus accelerates across Kansas. August and September were the worst months so far in the pandemic, and more than 700 Kansans have now died from the disease.

“I have said it before, I will say it again: This is not normal,” Kelly said during her weekly news briefing at the Capitol. “We can not accept these preventable deaths or become numb to the loss of life.”

Kelly said governors received details about distribution of Abbott Laboratories tests during a conference call Friday with Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar.

The state already has received 57,000 of the Abbott tests, Kelly said, and will receive the rest by the end of the year. The governor said her administration was prioritizing schools, nursing homes and correctional facilities for distribution of the tests within Kansas.

“I want to commend the White House for working with governors to ensure we have the tests we need on hand for our states,” Kelly said.

The Abbott tests are less invasive and produce results in under 15 minutes, but they are less reliable than lab-produced tests.

Kansas Department for Health and Environment added eight deaths from COVID-19 and 1,597 new cases to its statewide totals, which are updated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Since the virus first arrived in the state in early March, it has killed 706 Kansans and infected at least 62,708.

The latest outbreaks reported by KDHE include 19 long-term care facilities, state prisons in El Dorado, Ellsworth and Hutchinson, the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, Pittsburg State University, Allen County and Dodge City community colleges, Baldwin High School, Buhler Grade School, Meade Elementary School, and Dodge City public schools.

Kelly said she hasn’t made changes to her personal safety protocols in light of President Donald Trump’s hospitalization for COVID-19. She is married to a doctor, established protocols early and adheres to them religiously, she said.

The governor said politics clouded the public health conversation about COVID-19, with friends, neighbors and family digging in on respective sides.

“As a result, it’s increasingly difficult for us to talk to or listen to one another,” Kelly said. “But I have to tell you this virus will be spreading in our communities regardless of the election results until we all take the threat seriously and act accordingly.”