By Jessie Wagoner
There are currently 32 people in McPherson County actively battling COVID-19. The county has experienced a total of 74 cases since the beginning of the pandemic; 42 of the cases have met recovery guidelines. At this time, one person is hospitalized, with the remaining individuals recovering at home.
Since the stay-at-home order was lifted, the county has seen a significant uptick in cases. Shalei Shea, director of the McPherson County Health Department, continues to encourage residents to practice social distancing, wear a mask and practice good hygiene in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“I believe right now it’s obvious that closing down really did limit the spread of COVID-19,” Shea said. “However, it did create quite the ripple effect on our social, economic, financial and mental health.”
Since reopening the county, there has been a number of new cases, including one case identified at the McPherson Water Park. The employee of the water park was working in admissions and was wearing a mask. The employee is now in quarantine during the recovery period, and three additional employees are in quarantine as a result of the exposure.
One McPherson County family impacted by COVID-19 has chosen to share their experience but has requested their identity be protected as a result of the judgement surrounding a COVID-19 diagnosis. They have experienced a great deal of shaming upon their child being diagnosed with COVID-19 and believe the shaming only makes the situation worse for those battling the illness. We will identify them as the Jones family in this article.
“People don’t understand all the anxiety or emotion that goes with the COVID-19 diagnosis,” Mrs. Jones said. “You are scared you have exposed your friends and family. You are scared you may kill your friends. It is horrible.”
For the family, the COVID-19 diagnosis of their young adult daughter came as a surprise. Their daughter is a healthy college student who completed an hour-long, high-impact workout the morning she was diagnosed with COVID-19. She reported no major symptoms, though she did think her seasonal allergies were acting up, as she was congested.
“She had spent the weekend with some friends from Pottawatomie County,” Mrs. Jones said. “One of the girls in the group found out she had been exposed to COVID-19 while bartending in Manhattan. So all of them got tested. Had we not been told to go get tested, we wouldn’t have, because my daughter felt fine.”
While her daughter felt fine, she was in fact positive for COVID-19, and the entire family had to go into quarantine. They had to provide information to the health department for contact tracing, and they had to notify their contacts.
“It was hard, and you feel judged,” Mrs. Jones said. “But we also had a lot of friends contacting us and asking how she was doing. Most of the time all you hear about are the cases where people are on ventilators and her case was so mild, we are very lucky. There are other people in the community who have had a much different experience.”
One thing COVID-19 has shown is a lack of consistency. While some individuals experience mild cases like the Jones family, there are others in the county who have been hospitalized and continue to struggle with side effects even after meeting recovery guidelines. One McPherson resident with COVID-19 has described waking up, gasping for air and having to call 911 for assistance.
“This virus is absolutely awful,” he said. “I can feel every muscle in my body cramp, and I feel like there is a belt around my chest. I’m getting better each day, but it’s a struggle to even walk to the bathroom at times.”
Due to the rise in cases of COVID-19 across the state, Gov. Laura Kelly has announced she will sign an executive order requiring that most Kansans in a public space must wear a mask, beginning Friday, July 3.
“This is a simple, proactive step we can take to keep Kansans at work, get our kids back to school, and keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy,” Kelly said. “Wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shut down.”
“Remember: my mask protects you, and your mask protects me,” Kelly said. “We’re all in this together.”
The McPherson News-Ledger reached out to the McPherson County Commission to see what steps the county will be taking in light of the increase in cases. Commissioner Keith Becker was the only commissioner to respond.
“In response to your questions pertaining to the COVID-19, we at this time believe the guidelines the McPherson Health Department has established are sufficient,” Becker said. “This obviously could change depending on what occurs in the future.”
At this time, the county remains in Phase Three of reopening. Phase Three includes the following recommendations:
•Maintaining social distancing.
•Avoiding gatherings in groups greater than 45 persons.
•Wearing cloth face coverings or homemade masks when in public.
•Practicing cough etiquette and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.