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County commissioners react to comments from state officials about uptick of COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sedgwick County commissioners are reacting to the harsh comments made by Governor Laura Kelly and KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman about the uptick of COVID-19 cases.

The officials called out Sedgwick County by name in the daily media briefing on Monday (June 15) saying county commissioners made the decision to reopen the county back in May without any new restrictions.

“Take a look here at Sedgwick County,” said Governor Kelly. “Their commissioners chose to stop enforcing social distancing guidelines on May 27.”

Now, county commissioners are reacting. County commissioner David Dennis said officials have been working tirelessly to keep the community safe.

“I was disappointed by the governor’s comments,” said Dennis. “We’re working this issue every single day.”

Dr. Norman had comments of his own about bars and other businesses fully opening in some Kansas counties.

“Even if the county leaders choose to open up the county completely, people still need to maintain their behaviors,” said Dr. Norman. “Especially bars when people congregate, and it shows up in contact tracing, we find out that it is related to those things that in other counties would’ve been closed.”

You can see on the map below that Sedgwick County is one of 13 counties that have seen an increase in coronavirus cases.

Courtesy: Kansas Department of Health and Environment

The big question remains; did county commissioners make the wrong move in May when they decided not to create additional limits and stick only to the governor’s Ad Astra plan?

Commissioners said no and they stand by their decision.

“I do think we’ve made the right decisions,” said county commissioner Michael O’Donnell. “If you look at our numbers, they have been going down on a month to month basis and even over the last three weeks they’ve gone down.”

“The whole purpose of this was to lower the curve,” said Dennis. “We are not going to get this virus out of the community until there’s a vaccine. That’s a critical point that people keep missing.”

County commissioners said hospitalizations are at an all-time low since the pandemic began and they believe the increase in cases is from the spike in testing and recent large gatherings like Memorial Day activities and protests.

“It is a serious virus, we understand that,” said O’Donnell. “But we also can’t shut down the economy again because so many small business owners are already suffering. I’m not naïve, I know this could spiral out of control. But, we know where that could happen and that would be more more likely than not at a nursing home or long term care facility.”

Dr. Norman said he has been working closely with Dr. Garold Minns, Sedgwick County health officer, to see what can be done to contain the spread. Minns has previously said he thinks the county should remain in Phase II.

Commissioner said they expect more information from Dr. Minns at Wednesday’s county commission meeting.

To see the latest COVID-19 numbers, click here.

For more information about the efforts in Sedgwick County or to see the latest data, click here.


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