As Wyandotte County prepares to enter Phase 2 of the governor’s Ad Astra reopening plan on Friday, May 22, Wyandotte County health officials reported on the state of COVID-19 here.
The county and surrounding area recently has seen decreasing trends in the rolling averages of cases and deaths, according to officials.
Wyandotte County still has a higher positive case and death rate per 100,000 than most of the surrounding area, at 716 compared to Johnson County’s 113, Kansas City, Missouri’s 187 and the state of Kansas’ 293 rate, according to Juliann Van Liew, director of the Unified Government Health Department. She made her remarks at a UG Commission meeting at 5 p.m.
However, the 14-day rolling average here is now down to 18 new cases a day on average, down from the mid-30s a few weeks ago, she said. They may see occasional spikes on certain days, but the rolling averages gives a good longer-term picture of trends.
Also, the rolling average of deaths here is down to about .5 a day, down from about 2.5 a month ago, Van Liew said.
The positivity percentage continued to improve, she said. They are seeing increased testing at hospitals of patients who are being screened for additional procedures and surgeries, which is why they are seeing some of the decrease in the percentage of positive cases.
Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy health officer for Wyandotte County, said the data is looking good and she feels confident they will be able to move safely into Phase 2 of the state’s Ad Astra reopening plan on Friday.
Originally, the UG was going to make the transition to its yellow zone on Monday, she said, but with the governor’s announcement about the start of Phase 2 on Friday, the health staff here felt that it would decrease confusion in the community to switch to the governor’s plan.
The state’s plan is broadly aligned with the UG’s “yellow zone” of its ReStart WyCo plan, she said. Businesses and individuals felt it was hard to understand why the county was going a different way, she said, so they decided to align with the state’s plan.
Dr. Allen Greiner, Wyandotte County chief medical officer, said the state originally had a plan with three phases, then a Phase 1.5 plan was enacted for a few short days. After seeing that numbers of high case counts in southwestern Kansas were not producing large numbers of hospitalizations, the governor moved into Phase 2, starting Friday, and Wyandotte County decided to do that as well.
Changes made to Phase 2 were that the mass gathering limit has been set at 15 individuals; previously it was going to be 30, he said. The change was made out of caution, so they can watch the data, he said.
Salons and personal services can now be open for Wyandotte County in Phase 2, with careful precautions and recommendations of mask-wearing and hygiene, he said.
Fitness centers, casinos and organized sports can open as well, with strong recommendations for social distancing, he said. Casinos will have specific plans in place with the state, he added, and the state is directing and reviewing everything in regard to the casinos.
Not allowed to open in Phase 2 are fairs, festivals, parade, swimming pools until June 8, bars and night clubs, and summer camps, he said.
Dr. Greiner said Phase 2 allows dine-in eating at restaurants, a big change for Wyandotte County, where it was previously just takeout.
The plan talks about preventing any groupings of more than 15 people in the interior environment, he said. Employees should not congregate in units of 15 in the kitchen, and patrons should not be in groups of more than 15 if 6-foot distancing cannot be maintained, he added. If 6-feet distancing can be maintained between individual groups of diners, there’s no restriction on how many people can be in the space, but the space will probably have to be adjusted in each restaurant to maintain that distance.
He said Mayor David Alvey has been working with the zoning staff and restaurants on how expansions might be put in place for outdoor dining at restaurants. The primary issue is maintaining the 6-foot spacing and preventing any groups of more than 15 in enclosed areas.
The reason to limit the numbers of people in restaurants is that people are there for a long time, whereas in a grocery store, for example, they are moving past someone who could have the virus, and are not exposed for as long a time, according to the mayor.
Dr. Greiner said the state’s plan has specific guidelines about church and faith-based gatherings.
He said they need to have 6 feet of distance maintained between individuals and groups of family members who live in the same household, but there are no number limits and no percentage limits. Previously Wyandotte County had a plan with percentages of people, according to the capacity of the building, but that is now off the table, he said.
He said the state’s plan relies on each church to take its own responsibility to promote social distancing and other recommendations such as use of masks, limiting the choir or singing in large groups, providing hand sanitation or other facilities for hand washing, and limiting things passed from person to person, such as collection plates, handouts, books and materials. There have been health studies that traced outbreaks to choir singing, he added.
These measures will be up to the individual facilities and organizations to make a decision about, but there is guidance and recommendations on how it ought to be done, Dr. Greiner said.
Wyandotte County will be under the state’s Phase 2 plan starting Friday 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.
The state has an information page about what activities are safe on Memorial Day weekend, at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Safe-Memorial-Day-Guidance-5.19_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 UG’s COVID-19 information page is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.