TOPEKA—Secretary Jeff Zmuda, Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC), expressed his thanks this week for the service of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas National Guardsmen at the Lansing Correctional Facility (LCF) in support of KDOC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of June 1, 2020, KDHE confirmed the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus at LCF as contained. As a result, the Guardsmen who have supported logistics, food and medical services at the facility concluded their mission on June 4.
“The Kansas National Guard is full of highly trained, professional public servants who are ready at a moment’s notice to serve their fellow Kansans,” Zmuda said. “We were extremely impressed with their willingness and ability to adapt to their new surroundings and face each task with strength and dignity. On behalf of the department, I want to sincerely thank them for their work.”
The first four Kansas National Guard members arrived at Lansing on April 15 and grew to more than 40 in support of LCF’s COVID-19 response. The Guardsmen were instrumental in monitoring residents for symptoms, carrying out mass testing for the virus and conducting twice-daily health checks. Additional members also provided support in food service, as residents who normally prepare meals were unable to do so while they were quarantined and assisted with the move to the new buildings at the reconstructed facility. Their contributions allowed Lansing employees to remain focused on safety and security tasks with confidence that these services were continuing.
KDHE began assisting KDOC with their COVID-19 preparations in early March and when the situation at LCF escalated, they dedicated a full-time staff member to assist with ensuring the health and safety of the residents. As the agency moves into a new phase of response, the two agencies will continue to partner to determine what additional steps may need to be taken in the future.
“Secretary Lee Norman and Phil Griffin, Director of the Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention at KDHE, have been amazing partners to our agency,” Zmuda said. “They have brought the health expertise that we needed to make sure that our staff received the most up-to-date information on the virus and how to keep the men, women and youth in our care safe.”
With the virus contained, residents, staff and contractors at the facility are moving forward with the resumption of many activities. This includes residents returning to their jobs in food service, laundry and maintenance activities as well as essential private industry jobs. In addition, the contracted medical provider will continue providing all services under the terms of their contract. Activities that expose residents to the community, including visitation, volunteers, mentors, and non-essential private industry jobs will not be resumed at this time.
“While we are resuming many activities, we fully recognize that this virus will still be present for the foreseeable future, so we plan to maintain the mitigation strategies that have been implemented at each of our facilities,” Zmuda said. “This resumption of activities is a first step to normalizing operations at Lansing, but one we will do with an abundance of caution and care.”
For current information on COVID-19 in Kansas, and to sign up for updates, go to the KDHE COVID-19 Resource Center at kdhe.ks.gov/coronavirus. For information on the KDOC’s response to COVID-19, visit https://www.doc.ks.gov/kdoc-coronavirus-updates.