The Geary County Health Department announced the county’s first case of COVID-19 Saturday afternoon.
The infected person is a 40-year-old Junction City woman with no known Fort Riley connections. The individual in question had self-quarantined for 14 days when she began to feel sick. However, officials said there’s still a possibility she may have communicated the illness to others. There’s also the matter of where she picked the illness up.
Geary County Health Department Director Tammy Von Busch said officials don’t know yet where the woman acquired the infection.
“Right now, both of my nurses are doing investigations with this particular individual to find out where she’s been and make sure that we can track down wherever she might have picked it up and get in contact with any other contacts that she may have,” Von Busch said. “So until then, we don’t know exactly where she got it.”
The health department is now working to identify people she came into contact with and contact anyone who was exposed.
Potential cases have been contacted with instructions to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever and respiratory ones.
She was tested March 27, and the positive results came back Saturday morning.
At this time, officials said no further information about the patient will be released.
Geary County Emergency Management Director Garry Berges and Von Busch addressed the issue Saturday afternoon at a press conference.
“The female patient is currently under medical care, and is quarantined out of her residence,” Berges said.
He said the health department had encouraged everyone in the community to stay home and avoid non-essential outings. This is encouraged even more so with a confirmed case in the community, Berges said. He encourage people who feel they must go out to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing and take other protective measures such as wearing a cloth face mask.
Some people, he said, had done a good job of practicing social distancing and following guidelines, but many have chosen to ignore restrictions on gatherings and outings put out by the health department.
Von Busch stressed the need to follow guidelines to prevent infection.
“If we have community spread going on, the only way that we’re going to prevent that is people please stay home,” she said. “They have come out and and recommended now that if you do need to go out and do the the essentials — go to the doctor, go to the grocery store, whatever — that you can use some kind of a homemade mask that will help you know protect you, protect people around you from coming in contact with people spraying saliva or whatever.”
Von Busch asked people not to turn grocery shopping into a family outing. People can designate one family member to carry out essential errands while other family members stay home, something that limits exposure.
She encouraged people to wash their hands or even change their clothes when they’ve had close contacts with others to prevent the spread.
By washing hands often and maintaining social distancing, Berges said, the spread of COVID-19 can be minimized.
He said there is a multi-agency team working on the county’s response to COVID-19, including the city, the county, the Unified School District 475, the health department and Geary Community Hospital, among others.
People who are sick with respiratory symptoms are encouraged to call Geary Community Hospital ahead of time, so emergency room workers have time to prepare.
Officials are awaiting the results of 13 tests, and 35 tests have come back as negative.
Von Busch said she expected more positive cases to crop up in the county following this first case.
COVID-19 infections in this area are expected to peak toward the end of April.