he COVID-19 pandemic continues to occupy much of the time for the staff of the Platte County Health Department, says Natalie Klaus said.
“We have bigger fish to fry trying to keep the community safe,” she said, adding that COVID-19 is taking precedence over the planned new facility location (see related story) due to its immediacy and severity.
Many staff members are working feverishly to keep up with the extra demands, some even doubling up on responsibilities, Klaus said, describing the pace as “very hectic.”
In addition, the department has hired a few extra personnel to deal with the pandemic, including a COVID-19 testing nurse.
“We’ve reached out to people who have worked for us in the past,” she said.
The additional employees mainly are doing “contact tracing,” in which those who have tested positive for the virus and known interactions are traced to warn individuals of potential exposure.
She said personnel concentrate on contacting those who were exposed to a positive person for longer than 15 minutes.
In addition, the department has added “two additional PRN staff to help with case investigations and contact tracing and one temporary part-time staff to help coordinate testing,” she said and added, “If we need to hire more people for contact tracing, we are prepared to do so.”
As of Monday, June 16, the county has had 190 confirmed cases, with 99 cases in Platte County outside the Kansas City limits and 91 within the city limits of Kansas City. (Roughly half of Platte County’s population lies within the city limits of Kansas City.)
“Platte County has experienced fewer outbreaks than some other metro jurisdictions,” Klaus wrote in an email.
She added that the county’s rate of infection is lower simply because the area is less populated than many other Kansas City area jurisdictions.
The county tested its first positive case March 21, with confirmation March 23.
The health department has tested some of the county’s positive cases but most of the positive tests have come from those tested at CVS and area individual health care providers.
Last week, the department coordinated a special event at the Platte City Middle School, where about 580 Missouri residents were tested. Results of that testing are not yet available, she said.
Klaus said COVID-19 has added many additional duties to the center’s already busy schedule, which typically includes organizing many community events, such as those for seniors, early childhood and back-to-school fairs and suicide prevention information, CPR and first aid classes.