Bars and nightclubs opened at noon Friday in Wyandotte County, with some restrictions in place.
No more than 15 people will be allowed inside the building, and they will have to be six feet apart, according to a Unified Government Health Department spokesman, Janell Friesen.
Only people living in the same household can be within six feet, according to the UG Health Department’s rules. Also, outdoor seating will be encouraged, with people spaced six feet apart.
In addition, servers and staff will have to wear masks, according to the new rules. They will have to wash hands frequently, and hand sanitizer must be available throughout the establishment. Surfaces will have to be disinfected frequently, according to the rules.
The customers are not mandated to wear masks, according to the spokesman; as in restaurants, it might be difficult.
Nearby, bars and nightclubs have been able to open in Johnson County and Wichita after the governor made the Ad Astra plan a guidance document, not mandatory, following the Legislature’s challenge to her orders. Kansas City, Missouri, will start a new phase on May 31 that will allow 50 percent capacity in its bars, with social distancing.
Restaurants and retail stores already were allowed to reopen in Phase 2, so Friesen said this will be the same treatment as other businesses.
Today, Kansas Health Secretary Dr. Lee Norman was asked during his news conference about bars reopening in Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Wichita, and he said, in general, any mass gathering exceeding the Ad Astra plan would be ill-advised.
He said he hoped people would pay attention to the metrics and the reopening plan and follow it.
“I would hope parents would give young people guidance, and would accept that guidance for themselves, with bars and places that are inherently unsafe, because that guidance is still out there,” he said.
However, if activities are held in keeping with the plan’s requirements on mass gatherings and social distancing, and if people are not close to others who might be infectious, then it could be in keeping with the reopening plan, he added.
Friesen said any business reopening now needs to be seen with caution, and the business needs to take safety measures, with customers also taking safety measures.
“COVID is still a real risk for the community,” she said. “While we’re reopening more, we still have to be very careful.”
She added they are trying to strike a balance between getting folks back to work and some normalcy, while still trying to help people keep safe.
The UG’s news release on the reopening of bars and nightclubs stated that aside from the new rules for bars and nightclubs, the rest of the Phase 2 plan remains the same in Wyandotte County.
“We believe staying in Phase 2 is still the best approach at this time to cautiously start re-opening while protecting Wyandotte County residents and workers,” said Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer with the Health Department, in a news release. “It has become clear, however, that this was placing undue restrictions on bars and nightclubs compared to other businesses, and this looked different from the restrictions in neighboring communities. So long as they implement appropriate safety measures such as social distancing, bars and nightclubs do not inherently pose greater risks than other types of businesses that have already been able to reopen.
“While it’s exciting to see more and more of our community’s businesses reopening in a sensible, step-by-step manner, it’s also important to remember that COVID-19 remains a serious threat in Wyandotte County,” Dr. Corriveau said. “All of us in the community should still take precautions to slow the spread of the virus. This includes wearing a mask when out in public, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and maintaining at least six feet of distance between yourself and people you don’t live with. This combination of common sense precautions will continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Wyandotte County and allow us to keep moving forward in our reopening process.”
Vulnerable populations, including people over 60 years old, individuals who have compromised immune systems, or who have underlying medical conditions should avoid close contact with others by practicing social distancing as much as is possible, according to the Health Department. The Health Department recommended wearing a mask or face-covering in public.
Phase 2 will remain in effect until at least June 8, according to the Health Department. County health officials will continue to monitor key data on the status of COVID-19 to determine next steps in the community’s reopening process. Those metrics include:
• The number of hospitalizations and deaths in Wyandotte County and surrounding area hospitals over a 14-day period, and
• The percentage of positive tests over a 14-day period.
Health officials are making sure that local hospitals are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and that vulnerable populations, including those over 60, those with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical conditions, are protected, according to the UG news release.
Residents with questions about the Phase 2 plan may contact 3-1-1 or visit the “ReStart WyCo” tab available at wycokck.org/COVID-19 . To learn more about the county’s COVID-19 response, access FAQs, and view additional information, visit wycokck.org/COVID-19.
At 11:40 a.m. May 29, the UG’s COVID-19 website stated that there were a cumulative total of 1,329 positive COVID-19 cases and 73 deaths in Wyandotte County, with 22 patients hospitalized. It was an increase of 21 cases since Thursday at 3:50 p.m.
The local health order concerning bars and nightclubs reopening is online at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/05292020_LocalHealthOfficerOrderRegardingPhaseTwoBars.pdf.
The UG’s COVID-19 information page is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
Wyandotte County is currently under the state’s Phase 2 plan at covid.ks.gov.
The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-FAQ_5.19.2020_Final.pdf.
Additional guidelines from the governor’s office about Phase 2 are at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/AdAstraUpdate519.pdf.
The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.