In response to Governor Kelly‘s Executive Order to “temporarily prohibit mass gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19,” and to mirror the preventative actions being taken by the State of Kansas, the Butler County Commissioners held a special meeting on Thursday, March 19 , at 8 AM to discuss the adoption of a Public Health Emergency Declaration and closure of Butler County facilities to the public beginning Monday, March 23rd through, Friday, April 3rd.
County Administrator Will Johnson stated, “With the closure of State offices, school closures and the expansion of travel restrictions occurring after the County Commission meeting on Tuesday, it has become necessary for Butler County to adopt a Public Health Declaration allowing the County flexibility to provide the essential and necessary services required of County Government. The County Commission continues to be committed to the health and safety of our employees and citizens, along with delivery services necessary to carry Butler County through this crisis.”
Essential services will be provided by appointment only. During the meeting, the Motor Vehicle tag office was cited as not being considered an essential service.
Also, discussed was protocol for employees affected by a limited shutdown because of the pandemic. Primary among the concern is childcare for essential staff. “Family First” is the motto shared by Johnson.
Johnson said “Childcare for staff will be provided in some fashion by the county.”
According to Jamie Downs, Director of Public Health, the number of available childcare workers in the county is down 733 providers with the coronavirus outbreak.
Johnson informed the Commissioners that employees are mandated by the state to quarantine immediately upon return from international locations and cruise ship travel as well as California, Colorado, Florida, New York and Washington. This currently affects three Butler County employees.
Additionally, Johnson said fearful employees considered “non-essential staff” will be allowed to take this time off.
Commission meetings will also be closed to the public but will be available through live stream on the Butler County website (www.bucoks.com) to comply with Kansas Open Meetings Act.
The one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Butler County, along with two exposed individuals have been quarantined and are being monitored by the Butler County Health Department.
In a recent report by the National Institute of Health (NIH), many have wondered if they couldn’t simply protect themselves by avoiding people with symptoms of respiratory illness.
“Unfortunately, the answer is no,” the report went on to state, “A new study shows that simply avoiding symptomatic people will not go far enough to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because researchers have discovered that many individuals can carry the novel coronavirus without showing any of the typical symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. But these asymptomatic or only mildly ill individuals can still shed virus and infect others.
“This conclusion adds further weight to the recent guidance from U.S. public health experts: what we need most right now to slow the stealthy spread of this new coronavirus is a full implementation of social distancing. What exactly does social distancing mean? Well, for starters, it is recommended that people stay at home as much as possible, going out only for critical needs like groceries and medicines, or to exercise and enjoy the outdoors in wide open spaces. Other recommendations include avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, no handshakes, regular handwashing, and, when encountering someone outside of your immediate household, trying to remain at least 6 feet apart.”
With journal studies, as well as evidence from asymptomatic patients testing positive for COVID-19, proving it is possible to test positive for Covid-19 without symptoms, it is unethical to act otherwise.
While there is no need to panic, this reality underscores the need to strictly adhere to social distancing, self quarantine and increased diligence to personal hygiene for the welfare of public health. It is necessary. It is about saving lives and protecting loved ones. We must all take it seriously.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests are currently restricted to medical personnel, first responders those who are symptomatic or known to be exposed to positive cases. This is due to the low number of supplies available.
The Butler County Health Department does not have test kits. All testing is currently being done at the state level.
While there may be no testing done on asymptomatic individuals who have no known contact with a positive case, there is still room for the virus to travel freely for weeks unknown.
Cavalier or dismissive attitudes do not change the facts. Ignorance in this case is not bliss. We are in a critical time and to establish and enforce strict safety measures in order to get ahead of the virus and help contain this pandemic.
Alternatively, running to stores and clearing shelves of food and supplies, including toilet paper, has increased the hysteria and panic. This behavior only serves to perpetuate the fear surrounding the coronavirus, as well as preventing people who need to purchase basic necessities from having access.
Using common sense, thinking of your fellow man and following the guidelines established by national, state, local authorities will help us stay ahead of the virus. In six months, we are going to look back at this time and say, “We overreacted” or “We didn’t do enough.”
The resolution, approved 4-1 with Myers in opposition, recommends the following:
- Recommended no gatherings greater than fifty (50) people through May 10th, or until the situation changes, in line with CDC recommendations.
- Recommended the County Administrator follow KDHE & CDC protocols for recommendations related to County services and employees.
- Encouraged County residents to utilize web-based or mail-in services instead of visiting
- County facilities in person.
- Cancelled all 4H Building rentals along with activities through May 10th.
- Cancelled the Department on Aging’s Spring Fling event in May.
- Cancelled all Commissioner Senior Center visitations and luncheons through May.
- Cancelled all out of state travel through May 10th.
- Required County employees to quarantine for fourteen (14) days if they had traveled to any restricted areas, as outlined by the CDC.
- Restricted County employee personal travel to CDC restricted areas.
- Discontinued any new vacation requests for Public Safety employees or critical essential employees (Health, Sheriff, 911, EMS, Emergency Management).