Wyandotte County to go into Phase 3 of recovery on Monday; zoning rules loosened for outdoor dining, sales

A rolling 7-day average of positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County showed some progress, although also some small peaks during the past few weeks. (UG COVID-19 webpage)
Positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County increased by 15 between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. The number of deaths remained the same. (UG COVID-19 webpage)

Wyandotte County will move into Phase 3 of the recovery plan on Monday, health officials announced at Thursday night’s Unified Government Commission meeting.

The UG Commissioners also took action on loosening zoning restrictions for outdoor dining and sales. Some of the provisions may allow dining to take place on sidewalks, parking lots and in parking areas in front of an establishment.

Under Phase 3 of the recovery plan, there would be a limit on mass gatherings of 45 people when distance cannot be maintained. That is defined as 45 people, who are allowed to gather even when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained, according to health officials. A mass gathering might be a group having a picnic somewhere, health officials said.

Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer of Wyandotte County, said there has been good progress in controlling COVID-19 here. He said they are “super cautious” and constantly aware that they might have to take a step back, but they hope that won’t be the case.

Phase 3 begins June 8 in Wyandotte County and the earliest it could go into the next phase would be June 22, he said. Phase 3 in Wyandotte County is a mandated local health order, while the state’s Phase 3 is just guidance.

He said many health professionals believe they may have an ongoing plateau of cases for some time. If they see slight upticks in the charts, they may stay in Phase 3 for a while, he added.

Dr. Greiner said the new Phase 3 regulations will be out, perhaps on Friday, from the UG, in time to go into effect on Monday. Wyandotte County is making a few tweaks to the state’s Phase 3.

Wyandotte County, for example, will say that businesses need to maintain a 6-foot social distancing between everyone, including employees and customers, Dr. Greiner said.

Another slight difference is that the state plan would allow long-term care facilities to gradually reopen. In Wyandotte County, the health officials want to keep the long-term care facilities closed for now, with no visitations. There is some discussion about outdoor family visits for those in long-term care facilities, but that has not yet been approved.

Private swimming pools will be allowed to open on Monday, with up to 45 people with distancing, he said. The Parkwood swimming pool will remain closed for the season, he said.

Summer camps, fairs, festivals and outdoor venues would be allowed to open under certain rules in Phase 3. If proper social distancing cannot be maintained, 45 people would be the limit. If more people are at an outdoor event and can maintain 6-foot distancing, those places could go to 50 percent or less of fire marshal approved capacity, Dr. Greiner said.

That will allow several events in Wyandotte County to reopen, he said, adding he had a good meeting with the Kansas Speedway on Wednesday.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Melissa Bynum, Juliann Van Liew, UG Health Department director, said public health testing will continue from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Health Department parking lot. The Health Department currently is in the process of discussing changing its hours to earlier in the day to avoid having to be out in the sun all afternoon, but so far, no decision has been made on it, she said.

Vibrant Health and other partners are continuing pop-up testing three days a week in the community, she said. They are planning to continue testing through June.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan asked how well Wyandotte County would be aligned with surrounding counties on June 18.

Dr. Greiner said Wyandotte County will not be very well aligned with Johnson County, as it has decided to move faster toward reopening.

“I don’t think we feel comfortable with trying to align with something we see as reckless and unsafe for their community,” Dr. Greiner said.

Wyandotte County could be reasonably close to Kansas City, Missouri, and some Missouri counties, he said. Wyandotte County could be a week or so behind.

There may be some reversals in other counties based on large gatherings that have been held there, he said. They will see data in five to seven days from now, he added.

Wyandotte County will continue to have dialogues with the other counties, and it will continue to do what it thinks is medically, from a public health perspective, is the right thing to do, he said.

The UG’s public pool, Parkwood, will not be allowed to open in Phase 3. In answer to a question from Commissioner Gayle Townsend, Dr. Greiner said it was thought a larger public pool was at higher risk than some other pools that are allowed to open with a limit of 45 individuals.

Most of the smaller pools are able to keep their numbers under 45, he said. It was a size issue and a difference in the way the pools are used by the community, he said.

Dr. Greiner said the pools to open might include neighborhood pools, hotel pools and the Turner Recreation pool, but none of them are owned by the Unified Government.

Commissioner Jim Walters asked about when a recommendation would be made about opening dates for schools. He said he has heard some people say they might look at schools in other counties if Wyandotte County is unable to open schools.

Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer, said they meet regularly with an education subcommittee, in four different small groups by levels. Each is looking carefully about how they are going about these phases and will be issuing guidance, she said.

It is their intention to reopen the schools in a safe way, and they are preparing to reopen in the safest way possible, according to Dr. Corriveau.

She said there will probably be some guidance issued from the state level on reopening schools, as well. Wyandotte County hopes to have some guidelines in the next week or two, she said.

Commissioner Walters said he was hearing that if adjacent counties open and Wyandotte County doesn’t, it could hurt the Wyandotte County districts.

Commissioner Mike Kane said he also was hearing from people about reopening dates for schools.

Mayor David Alvey said the school districts are part of daily calls with the health department and other institutions, and are receiving information.

Dr. Greiner said some educational leaders are on the task force, and that the state put a large group together to work on a plan for reopening.

Wyandotte County put a task force together a month ago, and the details of its draft plan are solid and detailed, he said. Other nearby counties are at least three weeks behind Wyandotte County in their plans, he said. Wyandotte County also is ahead of the state on drafting its own plan. They’re sharing the plans with other counties, and Dr. Greiner said he thinks other counties probably will borrow parts of the Wyandotte County plan.

Dr. Corriveau said within a week, the UG Health Department probably will get its information out about schools.

Mayor Alvey said the fact that Wyandotte County had acted early had a tremendous effect in controlling the spread of the virus.

“We have to preserve this victory, have to continue to maintain social distancing and follow all the guidelines,” he said.

Moving to Phase 3 does not mean the virus is over, he said.

The dangers of schools opening too quickly is the students may be asymptomatic, carrying the virus home, and infect their families, with the virus spreading again, he said.

Mayor Alvey said it comes down to the fact they have to have more vigorous testing and contact tracing, which is how to limit the spread. Failing the capacity to test and contact trace, they will have to use much more blunt weapons, which has been the stay-at-home order, he said.

UG Administrator Doug Bach discussed the new ordinance and resolution, which would allow businesses to use outdoor spaces and parking lots, especially as indoor numbers are limited.

Besides allowing some outdoor space to be used at restaurants, the new ordinance also allows some loosening of regulations for food trucks and retail stores.

Commissioner Townsend proposed an amendment that passed that would not allow food trucks in residential areas. She also said she would have liked to have had more time to read the proposed ordinance, as the information went out earlier on Thursday.

The proposed resolution and ordinance, before the amendment was made, can be found on the long version of the UG agenda for June 4, online at https://wycokck.civicclerk.com/web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?p=1&aoid=1753.

The meeting can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J60ySSjaQZs.

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 and will change to Phase 3 on Monday. See 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.

Test sites are listed at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

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