By Anne Hassler Heidel
McPHERSON—Discussion of the coronavirus COVID-19 response was once again front and center at the McPherson County Commission meeting Monday.
Health Department Director Shalei Shea reported 1,248 positive case results in the county. This total includes 98 new cases, 36 asymptomatic cases, 638 recovered cases, seven current hospitalizations and nine deaths.
Shea listed outbreak spots in the county as Kansas Secure Title, Pleasant View Home, Johns Manville, McPherson Health and Rehab, Bethany Village, Lincoln Elementary School in McPherson, a graduation gathering, a gathering at The Veranda, Central Christian College, McPherson College, Bethany College, Lindsborg Soderstrom Elementary School, First Presbyterian Church, MCDS, Pine Village, Pfizer, Smoky Valley Middle School, McPherson Police Department, Elyria Christian School, Central Plastics, Moundridge Manor and The Cedars. Criteria to be considered an outbreak hot spot are to have two or more cases in McPherson County, but if no new cases are identified in 28 days, the location comes off the hot spot list.
Shea also presented updates on the different school districts and private schools within the county and their COVID-19 responses. Shea is in frequent contact with all the school districts in the county. Up until two weeks ago, numbers had been pretty good in school districts. Her recommendation has been to go to remote learning from now until two weeks after Christmas based on staffing challenges.
“We’d love to keep kids in schools, but we can’t have them there if we don’t have adults,” Shea said. “The staff morale at almost every building has turned due to the scariness of the holidays and the increase in positive numbers. They’re scared and worried.”
The commission passed a mask order for unincorporated areas of McPherson County at last week’s commission meeting.
Public comment from Katie Reinecker, owner of Inman Harvest Café, included concerns about a mask mandate that would impact her business. Reinecker said she would not comply with any mandate that required her staff or customers to wear anything that restricts their airways. The current mask order does not include Reinecker’s business.
County Commissioner Tom Kueser also voiced concern about elementary-age children distance learning and the impact on working families.
“Are we doing this to stop the spread? The kids are in a structured environment at school eight hours a day. You take them out of that situation and they’re at friends’ houses and running around and they’re not getting that structure. I don’t know that keeping them out of the schools is going to really help,” Kueser said.
Kueser suggested that if older students do remote learning, schools look at using the empty buildings to help spread out students in the younger classes.