McPherson County to remain in Phase Three of reopening plan, school guidance released



By Jessie Wagoner


Phase three of the reopening Kansas plan will continue for residents of McPherson. Shalei Shea, director of the McPherson County Health Department, says Phase Three will continue for two more incubation periods. 

“McPherson County Health Department recommends McPherson County remains in Phase Three at least until Sept. 14, 2020,” Shea said. “This decision extends Phase Three again by two incubation periods and is based off the number of positive cases with unknown exposure and the continuous increase in new cases. The Health Department will continue to evaluate the threat COVID-19 poses on our communities.” 

As of press time, the county has a total of 175 positive cases of COVID-19. Of those 175 cases, 156 have met recovery guidelines and there was one death. Eighteen people are in the active phase of COVID-19 and are currently recovering at home. Of the 175 cases, 63 have had unknown exposure, which indicates community spread. 

Shea has also provided updated data related to the total cases. The most common age group impacted by COVID-19 has been 18-29 year olds with 48 of the total cases falling in that age range. Forty individuals above the age of 60 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 17 children under the age of 18 have also been diagnosed. Ten people have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 and four of those people were ventilated for some period of time. 

Shea and health department staff continue to work closely with school officials as they prepare for the upcoming school year. The health department released school gating criteria to direct schools on Monday. 

“Procedures and protocols surrounding COVID-19 are very fluid,” Shea said. “Meaning the need for flexibility is at an all-time high. 

Shea says the school gating criteria released by the health department should be used in conjunction with communication between the health department, the Kansas Department for Health and Environment and McPherson County public and private schools. 

The document, which can be viewed in full at, provides direction on what should occur when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. It also explains how a response to positive cases may differ between elementary schools and middle and high schools. 

  • Any time MCHD and/or the school district feel that an outbreak may ensue because of the exposure caused by a positive case. MCHD may recommend the school move to more restrictive measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.  
  • There will not be a set number of positive cases within a school building to trigger a movement to more restrictive measures, like moving to complete remote learning (online). Instead, this will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For instance, five positives from an elementary classroom may be related to the same initial exposure in one school, but five positives from a middle school may have no shared classrooms or other known exposures and may cause a trigger to move to remote learning.  
  • Typically, middle school and high school students are more active throughout their school buildings because they don’t have only one assigned classroom. In typical elementary school settings, students remain in one classroom with the same peers, each day. Therefore, it is more likely for the middle school or high school buildings to move to remote learning because of the potential for widespread exposure. 

The document also provides a color scale, which directs what type of learning environment the school should utilize. Green, which involves a low number of cases, indicates hybrid or face-to-face learning. Once a school enters the red stage, remote learning is recommended and if a school has a high number of cases and is the black stage, remote learning is the only option. 

“School considerations may vary upon a number of factors,” Shea said. “Including but not limited to how many active cases are students or school staff and how many students or school staff are in quarantine.”