The Unified Government Health Department today removed early closing times for bars, restaurants and taverns that had been put in place because of COVID-19.
The UG made a joint announcement with Johnson County, Kansas, and Jackson County, Missouri, to remove closing time restrictions.
While the early closing hours were changed, the restrictions are still in place to wear masks and physically distance, according to a Health Department spokesman. The restaurants and bars will still have 50 percent capacity, eight person per party, with parties sitting at least six feet apart, and wearing masks when they are not eating or drinking, the spokesman stated. Customers should remain seated as much as possible.
The new rules go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Feb. 26, the spokesman said.
Three officials, Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey, with Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert and Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr., issued this statement Thursday:
“We continue to work together as a region to follow the data and take appropriate steps to protect public health. Harmonizing our COVID rules regarding bar and restaurant closing times makes life simpler for businesses and residents. We are encouraged by the progress our region is making in fighting the virus, but we also know the fight is not over, and people need to continue to wear masks, social distance, and get vaccinated.”
Kansas City, Missouri, loosened some of its restrictions on Friday, Feb. 19, and one of the differences between the Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Missouri’s new rules is that Wyandotte County will leave the other restrictions such as distancing, capacity and wearing masks in place. Kansas City, Missouri also retained masking and social distancing rules, although it lifted some restrictions on capacity.
“Business owners and operators in our region have gone to great lengths to comply with and implement health protocols to keep their staff, customers, and the community safe since the start of the pandemic,” Mayor Alvey said in a news release. “Our primary goal has been and remains containing the spread of COVID-19, while simultaneously working to help residents, businesses, and the community manage and retain a sense of normalcy during these challenging times. As such, I’m pleased that the latest public health data is allowing for further relaxation of existing Health Orders for local operators, and that this is being done jointly between Wyandotte, Jackson, and Johnson Counties in an effort to provide consistency and uniformity for both businesses and patrons. While service hours are being expanded, it remains the responsibility of everyone to do so in a safe and controlled manner, working to ensure employees and customers continue to mask up, maintain social distancing, disinfect, and work to protect the public health.”
The new Wyandotte County order lifts the previous closing time of 12:30 a.m.
Under the new order:
· The closing time restriction has been lifted. Restaurants, bars, and taverns may remain open until their pre-pandemic closing time.
· Once closed for the evening, these businesses must remain closed until at least 6 a.m. each day. Restaurants can operate between their pre-pandemic closing time and 6 a.m. for drive-through or delivery services only.
Janell Friesen, spokesman for the UG Health Department, said it is all a matter of balancing. They are now seeing a lower positivity rate, in a seven-day rolling average, of about 14 percent in Wyandotte County, which has been trending downward, she said. At one point the rate was around 40 percent.
“We’re not completely out of the woods yet, COVID is still a threat to our community,” Friesen said. “We can’t completely remove all restrictions, but we can make some adjustments, based on what we are seeing.”
Local businesses are working with the Health Department in safety precautions, so the Health Department is able to make this adjustment to make it easier on local businesses, she said. The pandemic has certainly put a strain on local businesses and everyone, she added.
The UG Health Department currently is receiving about the same amount of vaccine as previously, around 2,000 doses a week, she said. Two vaccination sites now are up and running. Vaccinations now are open to adults 65 and older, with prioritization in the 66101, 66102 and 66105 area codes, where people are at higher risk for getting COVID-19, she said. Vaccinations are by appointment only, and she encouraged people to sign up at the Health Department’s website at wycokck.org/COVID-19 or to call 3-1-1. The Health Department will reach out to eligible persons to schedule a vaccination.
Wyandotte County residents can learn more online at wycokck.org/COVID-19, or by calling 3-1-1.