Effect of coronavirus being gauged in Wyandotte County

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Last week has been a very different one; and the coming week promises to be the same. The threat of the coronavirus has affected everyone in the world. I am concerned about the health of everyone. I am also concerned about the effect the disease may have on our Business West members, many of whom are small business owners.

Instead of my normal report which would tell of the various meetings I would attend, I am summarizing various helpful resources. But first I would like to provide some words of encouragement. I believe it is something that is needed.

Leadership is most important during troubled times. I see examples of great leadership in many ways at various levels. I see it at City Hall. Mayor David Alvey is doing an excellent job; this has to be his most serious challenge. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, had high praise for Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, during a town hall telephone conference Friday, March 27. He said she was doing a good job managing circumstances in the state of Kansas.

John W. Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, was the secretary of Health, Education and Welfare during the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson was president. I am most impressed with the definition of leadership that is attributed to Gardner. He said, when it is all stripped down, leadership can be defined by three words — keeping hope alive.

For the past several years, I have convened a voluntary organization called the Last Tuesday Committee. The organization was founded several years ago by Cindy Cash who was president of the Chamber of Commerce. The executives of various neighborhood business organizations and the Wyandotte Economic Development Council (WYEDC) are invited. It remains today as an information-sharing organization. The group also helps sponsor the candidates’ forum held at election time at the community college.

The follow is a summary of what the chamber and WYEDC are doing to meet the challenge of the coronavirus threat.

Joab Ortiz, the chairman of the board of the chamber, said the chamber is working with local,
state and federal officials to provide support during these challenging times. He told of efforts in four areas:

• Promotion of your business or organization. The chamber will offer this promotion through social media, the chamber’s website and newsletters. Interested persons should contact Katelyn Kaminski at 913-371-3070 or email katelyn@kckchambder.com.

• Buying local. The chamber offers buying blitzes at local businesses. Contact Katelyn Kaminski at 913-371-3070 or email katelyn@kckchamber.com.

• Connection with federal resources. The office of U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids provides the chamber with information about grants and loans for small businesses. Contact Daniel Silva, the chamber president, at 913-371-3070 or email Daniel@kckchamber.com .

• COVID-19 Task Force. The chamber is looking for businesses interested in developing strategies to keep businesses running. To volunteer, contact Daniel Silva at 913-371-3070.

The chamber is offering these services to the entire business community, not just its members.

Greg Kindle, the president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, is surveying Wyandotte County businesses to determine the effect of the coronavirus. WYEDC has also developed a website entitled “COVID-19 Resources.” The website is www.wyedc.org/covid-19-resources.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.

Column: Chilling at home, reading

Opinion column

by Mary Rupert

Some readers have expressed a concern about me being out in the public a lot. Thanks for your concern, but I really don’t go out that much as a rule, anyway. Like many other people at home, I think that reading is one of the things that can make the “stay-at-home” experience better.

As are many editors, I am mostly at a computer all day. I have already been at home for several years. The tasks have changed a little with a small online-only publication. I could make an argument that I am “essential” based on all the guidelines, but I would just as soon stay at home. Currently, I am trying to work from home, using email, telephone and videos of meetings.

While many of you have been staying at home for five days, I have been at home for 16 days now, just inside and in the front and back yard. I decided earlier this month, since I am 65 years old, that I would not go out unnecessarily because of the risk of COVID-19 to the older population. Science is not my strongest subject, but I understood that being around large groups of people or in close proximity to people was a serious risk.

This month, the last time I went out was on March 13, when I was in a car doing a drive-through transaction, and didn’t get out of the car. Before that, the last time I was out was March 7, for the opening day of Wyandotte County Lake, when I went there in late morning, after the crowds thinned out, and I kept my distance from everyone.

I do miss having the freedom to go to a restaurant and have a meal inside, to go to church, or to go shopping for various items once in a while. Mostly, I don’t look at the stay-at-home order as a hardship, but as a good reason not to have to go out, because I like being home. I hope to go out again to restaurants or to cover a few events when we get the “all-clear,” if ever.

A lot of my hobbies already were indoor activities. I have always liked to read, and that hasn’t changed at all through the years, although I am now reading books online as well as in print.

In January, I was reading a paperbook from the 1970s that I had on my shelf for a number of years, “Humboldt’s Gift” by Saul Bellow. Set mostly in Chicago, the book involves a valuable manuscript left as an inheritance by a writer to a fellow writer. It’s sort of a stretch for most writers to imagine that an unpublished manuscript could be worth very much; that would be like winning Powerball for most.

Also recently, I read a newer book that was a holiday gift from my son. It was a collection of mysteries by Allison Golden, a contemporary writer with ties to England and California. It had a style that moved along at a fast clip and the style was reminiscent of a past famous mystery writer.

Then, in February, I was reading some collected short stories by Henry James that I had not read previously. I enjoyed the elegant writing. I found this collection of short stories on the free website, www.gutenberg.org, where a lot of out-of-print or copyright-free books are posted. Most of these books are over 75 years old, and some of them are classics.

After that, I read “One of Ours” by Willa Cather, also accessing it at www.gutenberg.org. I had read a lot of Cather’s more famous books previously, but this was one I hadn’t read yet. This book was set at the time of World War I, starting with a rural setting in Nebraska and then moving to the war front in Europe. I thought it was fascinating to see what the Midwest was like 100 years ago. Overall, the book was pretty sad. This is not a good escapist book for those trying to avoid COVID-19, as part of it details the Spanish flu epidemic’s effect a hundred years ago.

Last year, I was reading some collected essays of Mark Twain while I was sitting around in a waiting room. I was reading this on my cell phone through an Internet browser connection to www.gutenberg.org. It was a great change of mood from the glum expressions on the others’ faces in the waiting room. However, later on I discovered that reading on my cell phone was using up all the minutes available on it, and I had to stop that practice. Instead, I started reading on a Kindle that was a gift from my family.

In mid-March, around March 17, I moved on to a paperback novel I had on the shelf. I had started it earlier and then left midway through the book. Written by an Irish writer in the 1970s, it’s mostly about old rural ways of life giving way to urban expansion. I’m still in the middle of that 600-page book.

Currently, the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library buildings are closed through April 6, but fortunately for local residents, the library has a good program where readers can access books and movies online, and read or view them on various devices such as computers, tablets, phones and Kindles. If you haven’t used it before, some information is at http://wyandottedaily.com/public-library-books-movies-and-other-services-are-available-online/. The library’s website at https://ecommunity.kckpl.org/ is open when nearly everything else has closed. You need a KCKPL library card, but you can get one online at the same web address.

Readers also can purchase e-books at several major websites, including major bookstores’ websites. Or you can order books and have them delivered. Quite often these websites have sales on books.

There’s really no excuse for not reading, even when you have a “stay-at-home” order. What are you reading?

Mary Rupert is the editor of the Wyandotte Daily. She may be reached at maryr@wyandottedaily.com.

Mayor Alvey stresses seriousness of coronavirus threat

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

Mayor David Alvey makes it very clear—the coronavirus pandemic poses a serious threat to residents of Wyandotte County. However, various public and private organizations have recognized this and are cooperating to deal with the threat.

In a teleconference convened at 2 p.m. Monday, March 23, Maureen Mahoney, the mayor’s chief of staff, briefed business leaders. They included representatives of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, the Fairfax Industrial Association and Business West.

Mahoney said as of Monday afternoon, there were 16 persons in Wyandotte County that had tested positive for coronavirus. She praised such organizations as the YMCA and area schools for offering to help to provide child care, particularly for emergency service personnel such as police and firefighters.

Mahoney said the Unified Government’s website, www.wycokck.org is a resource for businesses seeking financial assistance.

Mayor Alvey has joined with elected officials from other metropolitan counties to require a 30-day period that started at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, for residents to remain at home except for essential activities for health and safety. Residents can go to grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, doctor’s offices, banks and restaurants offering carryout.

Mahoney said Alan Carr, the executive director of the Kansas City, Kansas, Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, has made a list for the bureau’s website that tells the restaurants that are open for carryout and delivery. The website is www.VisitKansasCityKS.com

Mahoney reminded people that they should continue to keep groups to 10 persons or less, practice good hygiene including washing hands and stay at least six feet away from other persons.

Mahoney said although the threat of coronavirus is very serious, the Unified Government’s order is not martial law.

Mark Dupree, the Wyandotte County district attorney, has reported that individuals, including those who are undocumented, will not be arrested or detained for seeking medical attention. He said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has adjusted its enforcement posture, effective March 18.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.