Early this week U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall of Kansas' "Big First" District visited facilities and testing procedures in Dodge City and Garden City for the coronavirus.

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Early this week U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall of Kansas' "Big First" District visited facilities and testing procedures in Dodge City and Garden City for the coronavirus.

Cluster testing has been taking place in Dodge City since as early as last Saturday and due to the high number of those needing tested, the location was set at Western State Bank Expo Center from the Ford County Health Department.

While in Dodge City, Marshall said he visited the expo center, Cargill and met with Dr. R.C. Trotter, the Ford County physician adviser and the Genesis FQHC.

"This is by far the most organized, well-ran effort I’ve seen in a community," Marshall said. "Ford County officials, and especially the health department, with excellent leader ship from Angela Sowers, seem to be working hand-in-glove with the National Guard and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership. They are doing a great job. An incredible job.

"This is the way it’s supposed to work. The federal government has helped provide the tools and expertise we need to execute a plan at the local community level.

"My hats off to the governor and (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) Dr. (Lee) Norman and all the local folks for executing a solid plan. And my hats off to Dr. Trotter and all the local docs, and the hospital for filling in all the gaps, especially the after-hours work."

According to Marshall, tests being administered were from nasopharyngeal swab, then the Abbot "quick test," with results being available in 15 minutes.

In speaking with county officials this week, there still remains a need for more testing and at this time the issue is being addressed according to Marshall.

"I believe between KDHE and the private sector, they have the issue more than adequately addressed for now," he said. "The private sector can now provide literally thousands of swabs and get us results in 36 hours. The quick tests are really nice but literally are in short supply across the country. I have been personally talking to Abbott (the testing system being used at the expo) and Cepheid.

"The hospital has the Cepheid system but needs more cartridges. I cannot promise once we get through what they have we can get many more for a couple of months.

"Again, I would emphasize with the 36-hour turnaround test, we have access to thousands of cartridges as needed. Thank goodness President (Donald) Trump engaged the private sector to crank up production way back in early February."

With private sector testing, Marshall said 6,000 additional tests came to Ford County overnight around 10 days ago in the midst of the number of confirmed cases escalating, a major part being for the food supply with Dodge City having two meat packing plants which have seen an increase of confirmed cases from employees.

"The real challenge right now is trying to trace down all the personal contacts and communicating to all those contacts to stay home for at least 14 days and to do testing if they have any symptoms at all," Marshall said. "If you can imagine, we’ve had more than 500 positive tests in this short time in Ford County. So probably, on average, they’re trying to trace down 10 to 20 contacts per person. That’s no easy task and will require more manpower.

"The county health department is doing an incredible job, showing true leadership but literally just need some more manpower and it may take some other volunteers from the community to help track down these contacts and then effectively communicate to the contacts the need to isolate themselves."

During his tour of Cargill, Marshall said he was impressed with the procedures in place and believes the risk of contracting COVID-19 is greater while in public.

"In my humble assessment as a physician, I think the risk of getting COVID-19 is greater while out in public than while working at the Cargill packing plant," he said. "The company is going to painstaking efforts to maintain social distance, provide protective equipment and take the best care possible of the employees. They are focused on employees safety, Covid safety, and food safety.

"Many other business could learn a great deal from Cargill, and I’m sure the other packing plants will be using their best practices as we safely and responsibly open business again."

Marshall also referenced non-congregate housing shelters for those needing quarantined and said that Dodge City Community College has provided housing in efforts to isolate those who have either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have come into contact with those who have.

As tensions and frustrations continue to mount for residents in Ford County, Marshall said the morale of those on the ground remained high.

"This reminds me of being back in the military working with our mobile hospital surgical team," he said. "Everybody is working together with a common mission. Phenomenal.

"I often talk about one of the pillars of my life is community, a caring community that works together, neighbors helping neighbors. Dodge City is one of those loving communities."

Ford County cases

On Tuesday, the KDHE report showed Ford County added 28 cases bringing the total to 544 overall.

Hospitalizations are now five total, four of which are ICU admissions, two needing mechanical ventilation and still only one discharge.

The hospitalization, ICU and mechanical ventilation numbers is an increase of one each from Monday.

"It is imperative that we all practice social distancing, wash our hands and stay home as much as possible," Ford County administrator J.D. Gilbert said.

There have been 1,302 people tested in Ford County as of Tuesday, with 758 negative results. The percentage of those testing positive dropped slighting to 41.8% from the 42.6% positive Monday.

There have been zero deaths reported in Ford County.