KS Rep. Roger Marshall returns to the clinic to fight COVID-19

In this Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019 photo, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., stands outside an RV...
In this Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019 photo, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., stands outside an RV he uses in traveling across the state to events after an Associated Press interview in Topeka, Kansas. The two-term western Kansas congressman is running for the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/John Hanna)(WIBW)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall will miss the House vote on a stimulus bill because he's volunteering to treat COVID-19 patients in Wyandotte County.

Marshall, R-Kansas, is a physician. He said Wednesday was his first day at Swope Health Clinic.

"The challenge with this virus is it comes in different packages," Marshall told 13 NEWS after his first shift wrapped up. "It might be a low-grade fever, it might be a cough, it might be diarrhea. So anybody that walks into the clinic with those types of complaints, we have to assume it's corona until proven otherwise."

Marshall's specialty is as an OB/GYN, but says it encompasses many facets of general family practice in his rural community, as expectant moms may encounter diabetes or other health issues. He says that made him feel comfortable joining the clinic setting, where he saluted the staff he met.

"The doctors, the nurses, the providers there - just great people with huge hearts, doing a super job," he said. "I think they're a bit fatigued, but I think they can see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Marshall said having two perspectives as a physician and as a member of Congress helped him form an idea on the timeline that the country should be reopened for workers.

"First and foremost to me is the health and safety and welfare of Kansans," he said. "At the same time, if we don't go ahead and get this economy opened up soon we're going to lose more people to suicide and other related illnesses than we have from the virus itself, so I'm looking for Kansas common sense."

Marshall said he believes some counties with small numbers of cases are likely ready to reopen, but emphasized to be aware of the presence of the virus including continuing to practice social distancing, hand washing and staying home if feeling sick.

As for a timeline for a vaccine, Marshall said he is confident for one by Christmas but the focus now is to continue social distancing.

"Each community is going to need to be solving this one problem at a time," he said. "We need to increase testing ability as well so when we do see an outbreak we can jump right on top of it so one of my challenges right now is that we have more tests available all across Kansas."

Wyandotte Co. is the state's county hardest hit by the virus, with nearly 500 cases. Marshall said he expects to spend a few more days at the clinic, then move to southwest Kansas, where they're dealing with several clusters around meat-packing plants.

Marshall said planned to speak with University of Kansas Hospital leaders about how to improve the response in that region. He said they need to be sure they're addressing any issues, such as language barriers, which might hamper efforts to treat illness or slow spread.

Marshall said he hates missing the vote, but "I know I am most urgently needed in hospitals and clinics."