May 13, 2020 11:35 AM

Beer: No playbook, but proud of preparation

Posted May 13, 2020 11:35 AM

By NICK GOSNELL

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Hutchinson Fire Chief Steven Beer is proud of his staff for how they are handling the adjustments needed in the midst of a pandemic.

"They don't write a playbook for this type of stuff," Beer said. "Firefighters are masters at making things happen and making sure that we take care of our citizens. We adapt really easy to changing conditions. This is definitely what has happened through this COVID-19 pandemic."

The point is that on medical calls the firefighters with EMT training face risks others might not.

"Our troops come in each day to work, they get their temperature taken," Beer said. "They are asked seven questions in the morning when they start their shift. The next morning when they go off shift again, they get their temperature taken, they go through the same seven questions and everything's documented. To date, knock on wood, I think we're one of the few agencies, we have not had one person hit quarantine."

Beer knows that is because the staff has been disciplined and they have the resources they need.

"I've got to give a shout out to Adam Weishaar," Beer said of the Reno County Emergency Management Director. "He's been able to keep us in PPE and maintaining a good inventory here. We've got stuff in queue all the time here and even some stuff that we've got donated from the community."

Having those stocks of Personal Protective Equipment has allowed the department to go into the homes of the sickest people in Hutchinson and help them without to this point having any staff losses due to illness.

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May 13, 2020 11:35 AM
Baldetti questions actions from KDHE regarding COVID-19 numbers

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Reno County Commissioners got their weekly update on the pandemic during Tuesday’s meeting.

One topic that drew the most discussion comes from the state’s decision to add probable cases of COVID-19 to the overall number of positive cases in the state.

“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment made the decision May 7 to begin to include probable cases in addition to laboratory-confirmed cases,” Health Department Director Nick Baldetti said. “There was no real communication in terms of that new methodology.”

Baldetti says that change has accounted for 11 cases in the county.

“If you were to go out on the state’s website right now as opposed to our dashboard, we’re reporting 41 total cases with three active. If you go to the KDHE they have us listed at 52,” Baldetti said. “Those probable cases are identified via a disease investigation at the local level, but again the decision to count them in total counts at the state level, we’re still seeking an explanation on that.”

The other matter discussed was the continued issues with the Walmart testing site at the fairgrounds and the lack of information that has come from the two weekends of testing. Baldetti wanted to stress that the tests at the fairgrounds are in no way connected to the Health Department.

“That testing site is not administered by the Reno County Health Department,” Baldetti said. “That is a program that is a partnership between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and it is funded by Walmart and the lab that Walmart has partnered with for that is eTrueNorth Labs.”

Baldetti said it has been difficult to get information from the entities that conducted the tests and has already questioned their accuracy due to the way the tests were administered. One other issue that has come up is that there is at least one case where a person who took the Walmart test may have forged their results in an effort to get time off from work.

“In this particular instance, it looks like someone copied and pasted the language from the actual document into another document and edited it to say what they wanted it to say,” Baldetti said. “It raised some questions because some of the communication that was being relayed to the employer . . . did not synchronize with standard guidelines of what we would communicate, which raised red flags.”

Baldetti says they continue to try to work with the KDHE and the health agency that administered the tests to get the proper information out regarding the case rate.