Sedgwick County health officer recommends gradual approach to easing restrictions

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Approaching one year since the COVID-19 pandemic started and the numbers are going in the right direction. Encouragement with vaccine distribution and an overall drop in cases as some taking big steps when it comes to easing restrictions. This week, states including Texas and Mississippi rolled back statewide restrictions and mask mandates. On Wednesday (March 3), Eyewitness News spoke with Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns who says it’s too soon to make that big of a decision locally.

Some restrictions have lifted in Sedgwick County including the county last week rescinding the midnight curfew for bars and restaurants, returning the closing times back to 2 a.m. But it may be awhile before we’re fully back to “normal.” But with Texas, one of the nation’s most populous states, lifting COVID-19 restrictions and its statewide mask mandate, people in Sedgwick County want to know when that will happen here.

“I’ve probably got 20 emails right now asking that very question,” Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis said.

Currently, Sedgwick County’s COVID-19 cases are at the lowest level since last summer. Dr. Minns said that’s an encouraging sign, but the numbers must stay low before consideration of lifting more restrictions. Under the current order, mass gatherings are limited to 100 people, and bars, gyms and restaurants are allowed 150 people, or 75 percent capacity. The number of spectators allowed at sporting events is up to four per athlete.

“My hope is that we consistently see low numbers,” he said. “This current order expires on the 20th of this month and we will look at the numbers at that time. And if they’re still low, we could make some substantial changes.”

Dr. Minns said restrictions likely will be loosened gradually, but even if he were to rescind all of the restrictions at once, it’s likely that social distancing and mask-wearing will stick around.

“I too want this to be over. I’m tired of it. I’m so happy to see the numbers lower,” he said. “I hope will all my heart that the numbers stay down low and we can just phase out the order completely soon.”

Dr. Minns also mentioned what happened after Sedgwick County lifted all restrictions last May. COVID-19 numbers spiked again by July.

“I also have to realize this virus has fooled me before,” he said.

Dr. Minns said when the current order expires on March 20, his decisions will be based solely on medical data and not politics.

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