Atchison County Vice-chairman Eric Noll opines more economics should figure into COVID-19 decision making restrictions concerning re-opening plans.

Earlier this week, Atchison County initiated a 2.5 phase of the re-opening plan to ease out of some restrictions put into place in effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community as a whole.

Although there are some guidelines, restrictions and rules that still apply the plan, a local order No. 5, for the county does allow business owners more options concerning operations during the pandemic.

The decision was handed down after some discussions between health officials and county commissioners and after Governor Laura Kelly’s course of action with the Ad Astra statewide reopening plan was announced that put more responsibility of decision making in the hands of local governments.

Lori Forge, RN, the county’s chief health officer, recommended following the Governor’s plan and Emergency Manager Wesley Lanter agreed.

Action was taken after a two and a half hour recess, to give health officials time to re-write a plan mirroring Kelly’s Ad Astra Plan Phase 2 with a few of the initial local restrictions rescinded. Emergency Order of Local Health Officer 2020-5 and Resolution No. 2020-1468 were both adopted by a unanimous vote.

The plan became effective one minute after midnight on Wednesday, May 27 and will expire Tuesday, June 9. Commissioners and health officials were in agreement at that time they expect to determine how to proceed. Forge said by then she expects there will be more statistics to show an increase or decrease of positive cases.

It was prior to the recess when Vice-Chairman Eric Noll expressed his concerns about that the decision making has been based more on the health aspect than the economic side and consideration of negative impacts on businesses and the rights of business owners. Noll also mentioned concerns that the county might be subject to a lawsuit if the guidelines are too restrictive.

Lanter said states that have done nothing has double the impact that Kansas has had, and conveyed his belief that is because Kansas had put the restrictions in place.

Noll said there are two that will not reopen in the county because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Commissioner Henry W. “Bill” Pohl said that some business might have been struggling before pandemic orders were put in to place. Pohl conveyed his belief that safety should be the first consideration.

The newly adopted order emphasizes that citizens should not interpret the reopening plan to mean that the COVID-19 threat has past. It recommends citizens continue to social distancing, sanitations and personal hygiene practices under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as recommendations from federal, state, private medical providers and local public health officials.

Mass gatherings of more than 15 individuals in one location where they a unable to maintain a 6-foot social distancing between each individuals, but does not include persons residing together in one residence.

Businesses can open if the comply with 6-foot social distancing rule between customers or groups of customers; follow cleaning and health practice detailed according to covid.ks.gov; no more than 15 person in one location where they are unable to stay 6 feet apart – this does not limit occupancy in buildings, but limits gathering in areas where there is an inability for social distancing like entrances, lobbies, break rooms and check-outs.

Restaurant and bars can open for dine-in service in compliance with the following requirements: No more than 50 percent occupancy as determined by fire code; customers seated in groups not to exceed 10 persons at a table; tables must be situated to that seated persons are six feet apart and barriers present to prevent virus spread between seated customers or groups; all waiting and bar areas are to remain closed. Restaurants, bars and senior centers can remain open for carryout, and meal delivery.

The full order with all the listed details is posted for view at www.atchisoncountyks.org under Government tab on the county’s website.

As of Friday, May 29, Lanter reported there were 22 confirmed positive COCID-19 cases countywide that included one patient hospitalized. The most recent case is a male in his 20s. Patient ages are as follows: one 10-19 years; six between the ages of 20 to 29 years; two – age 30 to 39 years; six persons in their forties; four persons in their 50s and three patient are in the 60 to 69 years of age range. Twenty-six persons were being monitored. Of all the positive cases reported, 17 patients have been released from isolation.

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