A Fort Riley soldier has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the third Manhattan-area resident with a confirmed case.
Riley County Health Department and Fort Riley officials announced the new positive case Thursday afternoon during a press conference at the Manhattan Fire Department. Officials also indicated that a stay-at-home order would be coming, although they didn’t say when it would happen.
Officials said he was exposed to the virus in Los Angeles during a five-day visit. He returned to Kansas by air from LAX to Denver and arrived at the Salina airport.
Since his arrival in Kansas, he has been in isolation at his home in Manhattan.
Officials are working to contact people who may have been in contact with the man.
“That investigation is currently underway,” said Lt. Col. Terence Kelley, director of public affairs for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley.
The connection to a Fort Riley soldier brings full-circle the history of worldwide deadly pandemics. The 1918-19 “Spanish Flu,” which killed more than 20 million people worldwide, is believed to have started at Fort Riley.
As of Thursday afternoon, the county was waiting to hear back on six coronavirus tests, said Julie Gibbs, director of the Riley County Health Department. There are 19 individuals under quarantine in the county being monitored daily.
In Kansas, 168 people have tested positive, 90 men and 78 women, Gibbs said. That is an increase of 42 cases from Wednesday, Gibbs said.
Because of the “sharp increase” in numbers across Kansas, Gibbs said the health department is working to formulate a stay-at-home order for the county.
“We will be certain to give everyone more than 24 hours before we implement anything,” Gibbs said. “This is a very difficult time, but we will get through this together.”
Based on guidance from the U.S. Army, Fort Riley is operating under health protection “HPCON” Charlie.
Because of the order, the installation on Thursday implemented mission essential manning throughout the post. Mission essential functions and tasks include those that support coronavirus-related operations and the life, health and safety of personnel and the base. It also includes activities that prepare or provide support for global operations.
Some training exercises may be postponed, but they can continue if troops practice social distancing, meeting in smaller groups and increased hand hygiene.
All personnel will have to show identification and answer health screening questions before entering the base.
Fort Riley also has ordered all service members to undergo a 14-day quarantine if they have traveled outside the U.S., visited a high-risk area within the U.S. in the last two weeks, or they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.