“Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, which translates to “to the stars through difficulties” – a sentiment that has never felt more true than it does today. It emphasizes our values and optimism that, even when faced with the most difficult hardships, we come together as a state and keep our sights set on what’s important. We launched our #AdAstraStrong campaign to highlight “stars” throughout Kansas who are going above and beyond to give back to their community and provide hope during these challenging times.
Starting today, we’re extending this campaign by partnering with the Kansas Association of Community Foundations to recognize communities and organizations that are working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, standing up for racial equality and working to better their local communities. The selected local community foundation promoting its stars will receive a $10,000 donation from our Blue Health Initiatives. Stay tuned for more star stories and stay #AdAstraStrong.
We are excited to recognize our first community star, the Finney County Emergency Management Department, which was nominated by the Western Kansas Community Foundation. We talked with the director of the department, Stephen Green, about the department’s work with the state government to provide housing for COVID-19 patients and members of their household.
How did the idea to house COVID-19 patients and those exposed to the virus at the AmericInn and the Sleep Inn & Suites & Conference Center in Garden City come about?
It started as an initiative from the Kansas government. They identified areas across Kansas with a potential for a high number of cases. They then identified hotels in those areas to house patients. In our area, some residences near the meat packing plants house multiple families in one home. So, the potential for exposure is much higher in those households. It was imperative to find a place to isolate those individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 away from their families to avoid exposing more individuals.
How were patients divided among the two hotels?
In order to be sheltered in the hotels, individuals contacted us, and we worked with them and a representative from the Kansas Department for Children and Families to coordinate their needs for sheltering. Individuals were then either directed to a hotel housing positive COVID-19 patients and required strict isolation, or they were sent to the hotel that was housing non-positive members of the individual’s household.
Can you explain the services provided to the patients taking shelter at the hotels?
The state and local government worked together to identify necessary services and contractors. The state government deployed members of the National Guard to provide services at the AmericInn and the Sleep Inn & Suites & Conference Center. We worked to coordinate meal support from the community college, free of charge, to those being sheltered in the hotels and contracted with a third-party laundry service to do laundry for those staying at the hotels.
There was a nurse practitioner contracted to come in daily for check-ups with the COVID-19 patients to ensure their symptoms didn’t worsen. The head of the health department, who is also a doctor, was in close communication with the nurse practitioner to check on the status of patients while they were housed in the hotel.
How long was this service provided?
The two hotels were actively housing members of the community for two months. We helped approximately 20 patients who were COVID-19 positive and 30 who were non-positive. Finney County’s number of positive cases then started to decrease, so the government decided there was no longer a need to utilize those hotels. There are still three or four counties in the state that are mobilized for sheltering. Today, when someone tests positive in Finney County and needs shelter, they are redirected to shelter at one of the hotels in Ford County.
What was the experience like working on this initiative?
It was really great to see the state government actively taking steps to care for members of our community. It was also nice to see how well the state and local government worked together in order to get the hotels and services up and running for these patients. Members of the Finney County community were very appreciative and supportive of these efforts.