(RILEY COUNTY, KS – June 28, 2020) A coronavirus outbreak has been confirmed at Riley County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). A total of six EMS personnel tested positive for COVID-19 and test results are pending for three more. Results will be shared when information becomes available. Positive cases have been confirmed at two out of four EMS stations in the County, with a third likely.
All emergency medical and fire services are fully supported and operational at this time. There have been no changes in response posture for the community.
The initial infections have been tracked to community spread, and not exposure from patients served by EMS. After the first infections, the spread was caused by close living quarters for emergency personnel. PPE has continually been used anytime staff have been in contact with patients and there is no evidence that any patients have been exposed.
“We knew we had to be prepared for staff to test positive,” said Riley County Emergency Services Director David Adams. “We put plans and protocols in place months ago and have covered shifts with overtime or part-time staff in order to continue serving the community.”
Riley County EMS is following all CDC protocol for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to COVID-19. The local procedures have been based on the processes used by emergency personnel in New York City, as well as consultations with other stations throughout Kansas. These procedures include taking temperatures, wearing personal protective equipment, practicing social distancing as work duties permit, sanitizing all equipment, and sending sick employees home.
“Thankfully, none of the cases have been severe,” said Adams. “My staff are reporting headaches, pressure behind the eyes, body aches, and fatigue so I have every hope that they will all make full recoveries.”
The Manhattan Fire Department works closely with EMS and occupy some of the same living quarters. They have pulled nine fire fighters from active duty pending test results. Some of those fire fighters are in quarantine at a local hotel.
“We wish we could have issued a report as soon as we knew of the positives, but our first priority was taking care of staff and making sure there were enough unexposed individuals to cover all shifts to continue providing emergency services,” said Manhattan Fire Chief Scott French. “In the future, we’ll be sure to inform communications staff right away so the public gets firsthand knowledge of the situation.”
Close living quarters and sustained close contact between individuals at bars and restaurants has been a major cause of the recent spike in positive cases for Riley County. It is important to avoid the 3 C’s: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.
“We recognize the risk of healthcare professionals coming into contact with positive patients,” said Riley County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Andrew Adams. “We are all taking precautions, but when COVID gets into a household, with roommates or family who have close contact, it is very difficult to slow the spread.”
As of Sunday at 1:00 p.m., Riley County had a total of 207 positive cases, with 121 active, 83 recovered, and 3 deaths. The total has increased by 23 since Friday’s report.
Ascension Via Christi hospital has one positive patient who is on a ventilator and no Persons Under Investigation currently hospitalized.
Riley County Statistics for Sunday, June 28, 2020:
The public can find updates for statewide statistics at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/160/COVID-19-in-Kansas. For more information about Riley County’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, visit the Riley County website at https://www.rileycountyks.gov/covid19, follow RCHD on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rileycountyhealthdepartment/ and Twitter @RileyCoHealth.