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Mental health among factors health officials consider in county reopening

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(KKTV)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 6:38 AM CDT
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Sedgwick County Commissioners voted to recommend the county follow Governor Laura Kelly's Ad Astra reopening guidelines, but are not enforcing it. Several businesses such as bars, swimming pools and summer camps can reopen earlier than the recommendations suggest.

Sedgwick County Health Department Director, Adrienne Byrne, says the county considers the economic and mental health impacts of the health crisis.

She says the health department's biggest concern is the health risk. Sedgwick County did not have a large volume of cases compared to other urban areas. Byrne says we will not know exactly what helped keep numbers so low, but she says businesses shutting down certainly helped.

Now that the case numbers are stable and declining, reopening businesses could reduce mental health problems caused by coronavirus. Byrne says she's never seen anything create so much anxiety in the community.

If you're feeling that way, you're not alone. Dr. Keith Buhr, a licensed psychologist at Prairie View, says it's normal. He says as more businesses open, being skeptical and fearing the unknown is okay.

Dr. Buhr says come up with your own plan of when you will go out to certain businesses and start up activities again. He says some ways to ease anxiety is to focus on things you can do and set aside time for specific hobbies that you enjoy, and only do things you're comfortable with.

"It is perfectly okay to feel anxious at this time. I think all of us have certain fears about jumping back into activities, especially because what we are managing isn't something we can see or even know for certain if we are a carrier," said Dr. Buhr.

To be clear, Byrne wants everyone to follow the recommendations the health department encouraged from the beginning of the pandemic - social distancing, washing your hands and not touching your face.

"I know people are ready to get out and live their life as shown in the Ozarks and in other places," Byrne says, "They're ready to be social again but we still have to take precautions and be careful."

As more public places and activities reopen, the county is watching the total number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Byrne says county leaders are learning more about coronavirus each day and still have questions about the illness. She says if people are not comfortable going to the newly opened businesses, don't. She says everyone needs to think about the risk of getting sick or passing it along to others.

"One of the main questions people have to ask themselves is how much of a risk are they willing to take. do they want to do what they can to remain safe until we know for sure? or not?"

Health officials are concerned about a large increase in cases happening around flu season.

You can find a list of mental health resources across Kansas here:

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