Kansas works to boost testing in meat processing towns

Covid 19 Research

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has received more personal protective equipment and supplies to expand COVID-19 testing in communities with meat processing plants.

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday that the federal supplies will go to Finney, Ford and Seward counties in southwest Kansas and Lyon County in the east-central part of the state. As of Sunday, 247 people in those counties were infected with the coronavirus out of 1,849 statewide.

Cargill, Tyson Fresh Meats and National Beef have said employees at their processing plants tested positive. Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track clusters connected to the processing plants.

Controlling the outbreaks is crucial: Plants in southwest Kansas account for 25 to 30% of beef processing in the country.

“Agriculture is a facet of our state’s most critical infrastructure — Kansas doesn’t just feed the state, we feed the world,” Kelly said in a news release. “This is particularly true of our frontline workers in meatpacking plants across the state who process a significant portion of the nation’s supply.”

The facilities also have taken steps to improve safety, including staff health screenings, enhanced sanitation and social distancing.

THE ECONOMY

Kelly and Kansas legislators expect to get their first real look Monday at how much the coronavirus pandemic could squeeze the state budget. State officials, legislative researchers and university economists plan to issue a new fiscal forecast that will likely be more pessimistic than the current one.

They are expected to issue lower projections for tax collections. From last July through March — the current budget year — tax collections were running 3.2% ahead of expectations, but the economic dislocation associated with the pandemic had yet to be felt.

REOPENING THE ECONOMY

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce released a plan Sunday for reopening the economy. It calls for allowing nonessential businesses to open if they are able to do things such as boost cleaning of common areas, provide flexible time off for sick employees and establish employee temperature monitoring.

The health status of geographic regions should be taken into consideration, according to the organization, and the most vulnerable people should be afforded specific protections.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

The number of coronavirus deaths in Kansas increased by six Sunday to 92.