Kansas county officials had various reactions on May 27 to Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision to give them the authority to determine their own coronavirus restrictions, with some deciding to keep the current rules in place and others planning meetings to discuss how to proceed.
Wyandotte, Douglas and Lyon counties, in eastern Kansas, issued news releases saying they would continue to enforce restrictions Kelly imposed as part of a phased plan to reopen the state’s economy. Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, said restrictions on the size of gatherings and how businesses can operate would now be only guidelines.
Officials in Sedgwick and Ford counties scheduled meetings to discuss their next steps.
Johnson County health officials said in a news release that they believe residents and businesses should continue to follow the safety guidance from Kelly’s reopening plan.
“It is crucial that we all continue to practice physical distancing, wear barrier masks where we cannot maintain social distancing, practice good hygiene and make decisions that protect the health of the community,” said Dr. John LeMaster, the county’s public health officer.
Wyandotte County health officials said they would impose Kelly’s original restrictions until at least June 8, in part because the county has many residents who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. The county reported 1,268 confirmed cases and 72 deaths as of May 27.
The restrictions include banning gatherings of more than 15 people and the closing of bars and nightclubs, most swimming pools, large entertainment venues, events such as fairs and festivals, and overnight summer camps.
“No matter what political battles rage at the state level, our fight has been and will continue to be against the novel coronavirus,” Mayor David Alvey said in a news release. “We will restrict, or relax, as much as is necessary to prevent overwhelming first responders and our health care system, while simultaneously working to re-open our community at the appropriate time.”
Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino said the county wanted to stay with current restrictions because “we think it’s a good plan that is working in our area.” Through Tuesday, the county had had 63 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Lyon County officials said the current restrictions will remain because the virus continues to “endanger the public health, safety and welfare of persons and property within the borders” of the county.
Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert said he spoke with county commissioners Tuesday night after Kelly issued her order and most said they wanted to “sleep on it” for a few hours before deciding how their counties should proceed.
Ahead of their meeting Wednesday, several Sedgwick County commissioners told The Wichita Eagle that they didn’t want to issue any new county orders to replace the statewide orders.
“We’ve done a very good job of not having a massive outbreak,” Commissioner Mike O’Donnell said. “We need to keep that in mind going forward — that we want to limit that — but we can do that without any mandates or orders. We can do that by suggestions and trusting businesses are going to do what’s best for their customers and employees.”