Kansas K-12 tests cancelled; Wichita officials quarantined

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson on Thursday said state standardized tests will be cancelled this year because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Watson told reporters that because the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t allow virtual testing, tests are off this year unless something changes “dramatically.” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced an executive order on Tuesday that temporarily shuttered schools.

“It would just be impossible for it to be done in the manner that it should be done from a confidentiality perspective,” Watson said of the school tests.

A Kansas education task force rolled out guidelines to help school districts, teachers and parents navigate remote learning.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and three City Council members have quarantined themselves after being told two people at a conference they attended last week have the coronavirus.

Whipple and council members Becky Tuttle, James Clendenin and Brandon Johnson attended the National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C. The group informed attendees on Tuesday that two people who tested positive for the virus were at the conference.

Whipple said he feels fine but that he will work from home “out of an abundance of caution.”

Six members of the city council in Kansas City, Missouri, who attended the same conference were also self-quarantined.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Whipple said he and the council members don’t know if they interacted with the two people who are infected, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Kelly was also exercising caution.

Encountering a reporter outside her Statehouse office, the Kansas governor insisted that an interview be conducted at a 6-foot distance. Kelly said she’s checking her temperature each morning.

“98-point-3,” she said.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s health secretary, said he and Kelly aren’t being tested because they are well and tests would simply show they are healthy. “It doesn’t mean I’m not going to have it tomorrow,” Norman said. “What do I do? Get tested every day?”

Another four cases were recorded in Johnson and Wyandotte counties Thursday, according to the Kansas City Star, and The Joplin Globe reported a case in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas. That brings the total cases in Kansas up to at least 28.

The Kansas health department was reporting 21 cases, but that information was only updated as of Wednesday.

Two positive cases were reported late Wednesday in Morris County in eastern Kansas. The county health department said the two Council Grove residents who recently traveled to the Caribbean tested positive. Information on the residents’ conditions was not released.

The spread of the virus prompted Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company to announce Wednesday that it was suspending operations at its U.S. manufacturing plants, including a distribution center in Topeka that employs about 1,550 workers. The closure will continue at least through April 3.


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