County looks at reopening after stay-at-home order expires

By Anne Hassler Heidel


McPHERSON—When Governor Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home order expires at midnight on May 3, the McPherson County Commission would like to see businesses getting back to normal sooner rather than later.

“I feel like businesses out there are hurting,” Commissioner Keith Becker said.

McPherson County Health Department Director Shalei Shea answered commissioners’ questions about guidelines for reopening businesses in the county at Monday’s county commission meeting. Shea expects to see guidelines to come down from the state about what businesses are able to be open but that enforcement will be done on a local level.

In discussion with the commission, Shea mentioned the governor would likely not be able to extend the statewide order due to the political climate in the state.

In an interview with KSHB News, Gov. Kelly said any future orders would likely vary by regions of the state. 

We recognize that not every place is the same,” Kelly said. “What we’re dealing with just in Kansas, along that Kansas City border with Wyandotte County and Johnson County is very different than what we’re seeing in some of our more rural, less populated areas.”

Kelly also remarked that when statewide restrictions are lifted, it would be left to local governments to determine what restrictions are to stay in place.

Currently, McPherson has 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 10 patients recovered and two currently hospitalized.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has outlined a recommendation plan for reopening the state’s businesses that hinges on the availability of testing, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. McPherson County still has an adequate supply of testing materials, according to Shea and testing is being done daily with most results back within 48 hours.

While testing supplies are in stock, Shea said local hospitals are seeing a shortage in personal protective equipment like the rest of the country.

“Evidence is we need to slow open when we do open. All of us at the health department are just hoping and praying that we don’t get any other outbreaks because we are approaching our peak week for the state of Kansas,” Shea said.

Commissioner Ron Loomis asked why the name of the facility with a COVID-19 cluster was not disclosed, but Dillons grocery store was named in another case. Shea said the facility with the cluster was not a facility open to the public and families and clients were all informed of the situation by the facility.

She cautioned businesses that being named in an outbreak is something with repercussions they might want to consider if a cluster is identified at their location. 

“My goal is people just start taking personal responsibility of themselves and their business and the choices that they make because it surely is affecting more people than just ourselves right now.”

Shea also went over several grants that she has applied for related to the COVID-19 outbreak. A $16,742 grant from the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act to be used for health department expenses relating to the virus was approved. Other grants from the Sunflower Foundation and Kansas Health Foundation are still pending approval.