County commission discusses reopening plan

By Blake Spurney


The Board of Harvey County Commissioners decided at a called meeting Tuesday evening to continue in phase two of the county’s reopening plan until midnight Tuesday, June 2.

Commissioners also approved increasing the number of people allowed at a mass gathering from 15 to 30. The time frame of the enactment of the phase was adjusted to expire the night of commissioners’ regularly scheduled meetings so that they wouldn’t have to keep holding called meetings. The second meeting of the day Tuesday was necessitated by Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill passed May 21 by the Kansas Legislature.

Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said the county could move to phase three of the reopening plan if gating criteria were met. Those include stable or decreasing cases of COVID-19 and the containment of any outbreaks so that it doesn’t spread in the community. She said an adequate stockpile of personal protective equipment was needed to ensure the safety of front-line workers.

Emergency Management Director Gary Denny told commissioners Monday morning that one deficiency of the county’s supply of PPE was gloves.

Redington said another criterion where Harvey might fall short was tracking and tracing the spread. She said she put in a request with the state for assistance in tracking and tracing but has gotten no reply.

Commissioner George “Chip” Westfall said any decision made by commissioners might get turned around when the legislature reconvenes June 3. He also noted that the county was in a battle with the state and federal governments about acquiring more PPE. He referred to Fourth of July celebrations, the county fair, Walton Days and other community events while mulling the long-term versus short-term decision.

“We’ve got to keep the curve flat for the next several weeks to prove that we’re doing things right, and then we can hold those events,” he said.

Commissioners’ action means community pools will be able to open June. Westfall asked if the pools had adequate supplies of PPE so that employees are protected in the event of skinned knees and other accidents.

Redington said pools had supplies needed to prevent the spread of blood-borne pathogens, but she wasn’t sure about materials.

County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said commissioners could move back and forth between phases, depending on the circumstances. He also said he knew a number of businesses wanted to plan their return to the economy.

Hague asked Dr. Doyle Detweiler, the county’s medical officer, how long he’d like to stay in phase two.

Detweiler said he was concerned with the potential for the virus to spread at the county’s parks with the heavy traffic last week. He also noted the lower number for mass gatherings translated into less potential for the virus to spread. He said he didn’t have a feeling one way or another on whether the limit should be 15 or 30.

“Is it right is it wrong? We’re doing the best we can right now,” he said.

Hague referred to what he called a “disturbing issue” of people in proximity at the Lake of the Ozarks. He said more than 100 people would be returning to Kansas from the weekend and asked if those people would self-quarantine if they weren’t following basic guidelines for being in public.

“Most likely not,” Detweiler said.

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