Harvey County moves to ’phase out’ stage

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Harvey County on Wednesday moved into the “phase out” stage of its COVID-19 reopening plan — with a caveat.

The county on Tuesday moved to extend the restrictions on visitors to nursing homes for an additional week.

“That gives time for each facility to get a plan and get it reviewed,” said Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department.

Redington told the county commission that nursing homes received guidance last week from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Commissioner Chip Westfall said he had received communication from members of the public who are wanting to see the long-term care facilities opened to visitors. However, he believes the county needs to move forward with caution.

“People need to understand that ... they have to meet CDC guidelines, KDHE and Medicare plans. That takes time,” Westfall said. “ ... You lose patients, and (in some cases elsewhere) a third of residents are affected.”

The commission asked about summer baseball teams, which have begun play this week after one week of practice. They also asked about pools in the county, each of which have their own restrictions.

They were concerned with social distancing guidelines and whether they are being observed.

“In July we will be coming back to you, if we have not had to go back to Phase 3 to other restrictions, to continue phase out,” said county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber. “I imagine it will be several months before we can relax social distancing.”

Westfall expressed concern that neighboring counties in the region — specifically Sedgwick and McPherson — have seen recent increases in COVID-19 case numbers.

To date, 1,158 tests for the coronavirus have been administered in Harvey County — with 270 administered in the last week. As of Tuesday, the county had one active case. Since the pandemic began, the county has found a total of 16 cases and 13 have recovered.

In other business:

• Received an update from the Central Kansas Community Foundation concerning grant funds distributed in response to COVID-19.

• Discussed Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas funding and what requirements will be put in place. SPARK is granting $525 million for Kansans, businesses, and communities to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19. The county will receive funds and will be responsible for granting and auditing those funds.

• Discussed insurance premium increases. Property, vehicle and equipment premiums will increase about 8% at renewal.

• Learned that vehicle registrations expiring in March, April, May and June will be due in August.

• Learned that the Health Department has discussed vaccinations for elementary schools and how to offer updates.

• Discussed an all-day budget meeting July 8.

• Reviewed a lease agreement for radios for the 911 communications department. The total lease amount is $555,311.89. The lease will be for five years, with annual payments of $121,185.66 beginning on June 16, 2021. While the total amount will be paid from the Bond and Interest Fund, there will be an annual transfer of $79,861.35 from the 911 Fund to the Bond and Interest Fund to cover the principal and interest for the consoles.

• Reappointed Ron Krehbiel to the Harvey/McPherson County Community Corrections Advisory Board.