County moves to limit mass gatherings

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Tuesday morning the Harvey County Commission, which serves as the Harvey County Board of Health, voted to reinstate Phase III of the county COVID-19

Commissioner Randy Hague said the area is “way worse off” than months ago when the county issued stay-at-home orders.

“Even if we move to phase III, we are still less restrictive when we were better off and under a stay-at-home order,” Hague said. “... My concern right now is that if we don’ do something now and roll back to phase III, that down the road we will be back to stay-at-home. Businesses closed. Schools closed.”

Under Phase III, the county health order limits mass gatherings to 45 people or less and limits outside visitors to nursing homes.

Area nursing homes have already limited visitors voluntarily, as the county health department has announced three different clusters in nursing homes in the last two years.

Commissioner Chip Westfall made a motion to move the county to Phase III, with Hague seconding the motion. Both voted in favor with commissioner Ron Krehbiel absent. The county will be under Phase III through Dec. 1 after the commission adopted an order from the county health officer.

“We need to do this purposely,” said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. We are all fatigued with the disease. We are tired of talking about it. We are tired of washing our hands. ... At this point [however] we have to do something about it.”

The last action taken by the county on the reopening plan was June 16, when the county moved to “phase out” of the plan that removed mass gathering limits.

Nearly every indicator used to evaluate where the county should be in the reopening plan is trending negative.

On Oct. 18 the county was seeing 18 cases per 100,000 population. On Nov. 1 the county was seeing 732 per 100,000.

“Our public health system is overwhelmed,” Redington said. “ ... Our health system being overwhelmed is huge, and we need to do something.”

Currently, seven people from Harvey County are currently in the hospital with COVID-19.

“Their COVID numbers have tripled,” Redington said. “They are getting patients from other areas.”

The hospital started with eight beds, with the ability to add six. Currently all 14 beds designated for treatment of COVID-19 are full.

Regional hospitals in Wichita and Hutchinson have also reached capacity.

Hague noted that surrounding counties, with the exception of Butler County, are more restrictive than Harvey County.

“People are tired of the disease and they are tired of the regulations,” Westfall said. “There is a lot of consent right now of ’whatever happens, happens.’ I agree right now that there needs to be guidance from us.”

In other business the commission:

• Reviewed an auditing agreement for SPARKS funds.

• Tabled a discussion of Trapper’s Rendezvous. The Boy Scouts of America has modified the event, limiting it to one day without camping. The commission postponed a decision until next week as to if the event can move forward.

• Reviewed the final applications for the community health plan of SPARKS funds.

• Recieved a report from Computer Information Concepts, Inc. (CIC) is the County's software provider for the financial system, human resources system, tax system, records system, and appraisal system. The Annual Peopleware Agreement provides Harvey County access to support, product enhancements and training. The total cost is $69,025, which is included in the Information Technology budget. Of that amount, $55,765 is for support, and $13,260 is for enhancements. In 2019, Harvey County paid $68,485.

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