A third case of the coronavirus in Rooks County was reported Thursday, with the latest an employee of the Rooks County Health Center.


The regional hospital in Plainville announced the case Thursday morning in a news release and through social media.


“We want to be transparent,” said Anthony “A.J.” Thomas, CEO of the hospital, speaking during a phone interview about the hospital’s first case.


“We began preparing six weeks ago with daily meetings, so we had protocols in place,” Thomas said. “It was one of those things, we’d been planning for it, but that we’d hoped wouldn’t happen.”


Citing patient privacy laws, hospital officials declined to say if the employee is a health care worker or not.


Communications executive director Eric Sumearll did say, however, that the employee, like every other employee, vendor or visitor, was screened for the virus before entering each day for work.


According to the news release, the employee on Tuesday began feeling unwell during their shift despite having no symptoms when screened earlier.


“The staff member reported symptoms as soon as they developed and was screened again with a second temperature check,” said the news release. “Due to the symptoms and a change in their temperature, a culture was taken by a swab test and sent to a private lab for analysis. After the test was administered, the staffer went home per RCH protocol and proactively began self-quarantining.”


The swab test came back positive.


“Fortunately, this specific test came back in a very short period of time, which allowed contact tracing to be initiated promptly,” said the release.


“I was really happy with all the planning that we’d done because everything worked as it should,” Thomas said.


Every Rooks County Hospital employee identified as exposed through contact has been notified. Significant contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is closer than 6 feet for longer than 10 minutes. Those employees are not sent home to self-quarantine but are taking extra safety precautions, Thomas said.


That means self-quarantining when not at work and a higher level of personal protective equipment at the hospital. Those individuals are not automatically tested, Thomas said, saying the CDC doesn’t indicate testing for people with no symptoms.


Health care workers are allowed to work after exposure, he said, noting that if they didn’t, hospitals “would run out of workers.”


“We have a great system in place and the hospital continues to operate in a safe manner for patients and staff,” Thomas stated in the news release.


The Plainville case is the second to be identified as an employee of a medical facility in the Hays area.


First Care Clinic, 105 W. 13th St., announced Wednesday that one of its employees had tested positive because of exposure outside of work.


Those immediate public announcements contrast with that of Stormont Vail Health in Topeka. On Tuesday, the hospital’s president and CEO, Robert Kenagy, announced the hospital had 13 confirmed employee cases, the first of which was identified March 27. On Wednesday, the hospital said it had 15 confirmed employee cases and will be listed as a cluster site by state health officials.


Ellis County has six confirmed cases now, according to the latest report Thursday afternoon from the Ellis County Health Department. So far, 35 people in the county have been tested, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Ellis County’s neighbors to the east and west, Trego and Russell counties, and Rush County to the south, had no confirmed cases as of mid-day Thursday.