Cowley County will follow the state’s reopening plan after Gov. Laura Kelly this week rescinded her statewide order and let local officials determine their own coronavirus restrictions.
Public Health Officer Thomas Langer issued a press release late Wednesday afternoon announcing the decision. The order he issued, effective at 12 a.m. Wednesday, essentially holds in place the current limitations people were being asked to follow until a special session of the Legislature starting June 3 that could provide more clarity on how things will move forward, the release states.
The local order allows for the state guidance to be amended locally to fit Cowley County’s needs as long as public health indicators connected to COVID-19 remain stable or in decline, the release states.
“It makes little sense to keep our county restricted unnecessarily, yet we must remain deliberate and not just abandon all the precautions that have been working in Cowley County” Langer said. “The pandemic response plan that exists for our county provides for the activation of a working group that will consist of members of local government, emergency management, business and public health to consider changes moving forward.”
The City-Cowley County Health Department, which Langer administers, also updated its COVID-19 testing numbers Wednesday. They show 596 tests have been performed since the pandemic started, with four positive results and one active case. Two people who tested positive here have left the county and are not counted in the positive totals.
Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 119 since Monday to 9,337, and virus-related deaths jumped by 17 to 205, according to state public health officials.
Around Cowley County, Sedgwick County had 543 cases, Butler County 30 cases, Sumner County six cases and Chautauqua County four cases. Kay County, Okla. had 52 cases and Osage County 93.
The Cowley County order, which can be viewed at cowleycounty.org/health, states that mass gatherings, individual, business, education and essential functions shall remain as outlined in Ad Astra: Plan to Reopen Kansas.
That plan keeps the county in Phase 2, which began Friday and states that certain actives should remain closed including large entertainment venues with 2,000-plus capacity, fairs, festivals, parades, summer camps, most swimming pools and bars and nightclubs.
Other businesses that had been allowed to open should maintain social distance between consumers, individuals and groups, follow cleaning and public health practices
“Recreational, youth, or other non-professional organized sports facilities, sports tournaments, sports games, and sports practices should occur if they follow guidelines established by the Kansas Recreation & Park Association and approved by the Department of Health and Environment and posted on covid.ks.gov,” according to the plan, which can be viewed at covid.ks.gov.
Mass gatherings of more than 15 people are discouraged and individuals are strongly encourage to wear masks in a public setting and maintain a six-foot social distance.
Any employee exhibiting symptoms should be required to stay home, and non-essential travel should be minimized.
Phase 3 of the plan, which allows all business and activity to resume under certain restrictions, begins June 8.
The local health department also provided guidance for individuals and business to prevent the spread of the disease, including advice about travel and requests for variances to the guidelines for businesses.
“The hope is that we can move a bit quicker toward full activity but not at the risk of community health and safety,” the press release states. “We do not want a ‘wild west’ scenario in our county where everyone just does their own thing and that invites visitors from outside of our county that could cause a new spread of the virus.”