Sedgwick County 'stay at home' now in place

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Update: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The state of Florida issues its latest COVID-19 update for Friday, March 20. (MGN)

Wednesday marked the first day Sedgwick County's stay-at-home order which went into effect at 12:01 a.m.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and City Councilman Brandon Johnson both said the measure was necessary to prevent people in Sedgwick County from catching or spreading COVID-19.

"We know it's coming. We know it's going to spread. And if we take measures now, well we have less chance of getting caught in the middle of that storm," said the mayor.

He said Wichitans are doing a great job abiding by the rules: utilizing their best practices and using social media to encourage others to stay in.

"You know, we're all in this together. We have an opportunity here to come together as a community and to help our neighbors by following these guidelines and eliminating how fast this virus spreads. and if we do it right, we can save lives," Whipple said.

Councilman Johnson acknowledged that while people were following the rules they still have lots of questions.

"I've just been encouraging anyone who has reached out to stay home unless you absolutely have to leave whether you're exempt or not," Johnson said.

Both he and the mayor said they believe the move will help keep Wichita safe.

"Right now, I want people instead to utilize their circles of influence to pass out positive, good information," said Whipple.

"At the end of this, a lot of us are just hoping that we see highly reduced numbers. And it may even seem at the end of this like 'man, you did a whole lot and we don't see a lot of transmission,' and that's the point. The point is to make sure it looks like nothing," Johnson said.

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Update: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Sedgwick County Local Health Officer has signed a "stay at home" order for the county, effective 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, through April 23, 2020 (30 days) unless sooner amended, superseded, or rescinded.

Commissioner Pete Meitzner emphasized during Tuesday's briefing that if you are an essential business abiding by all of the rules of social distancing, six feet or more, and encouraging your employees that can work from home, if possible, your business will remain in operation.

"If you're an essential business, and the list is quite large, and if you have essential services that you need from these businesses, including something as simple as pet stores, laundromats, all of those are available for you to attend and use your vehicle to get there," said the chairman.

You can find a draft of the proposed stay at home order here:PROPOSED DRAFT OF EMERGENCY ORDER

The county announced Tuesday morning that there are now four confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Sedgwick County. The third and fourth cases are a man and a woman, both under the age of 60 and both were tested by their medical provider. Neither patient has travel history. Neither patient was hospitalized both are at home isolating.

The County has set up a hotline for residents who have questions about COVID-19, the number is (316) 660-9000 and it will be manned Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions can also be emailed to the county at stayathomefaq@sedgwick.gov.

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Update: Monday, March 23, 2020

The Sedgwick County Commission at a special meeting Monday voted 3-2 to recommend at stay-at-home order that would go into effect Wednesday.

The recommendation goes to the county's health officer who will make the final call on issuing the order. That final call would likely come Tuesday with the order taking effect Wednesday (March 25). The commission did not recommend a sunset for the order.

Among the questions with a stay-at-home order include, "where can you go?" and, "what businesses remain open?"

The order would not keep Sedgwick County residents from being able to get out for things they need. If the order goes into effect, all non-essential businesses must close in-person operations.

What's considered "essential" may vary. In Sedgwick County, the recommended list includes hospitals/medical facilities, grocery stores, agriculture, human and animal food processing, businesses that provide food, shelter and social services, media services, gas stations, several home and utility services, mail services, laundromats, childcare facilities, hotels and motels, liquor stores and restaurants that provide delivery or takeout options.

What are you allowed to do during a stay-at-home order? While that answer in Sedgwick County would come with the health officer's go-ahead to implement it, orders we're seeing allow travel to seek medical care, get medication, buy food for you and your pets, buy supplies, care for family members, get fuel, etc...

The proposed order in Sedgwick County, if passed, still allows people to walk pets, go for walks and work in amended capacities. The Sedgwick County Commission briefly discussed enforcement of a stay-at-home order, but it remains unclear how that would be done in the county.

Among those calling for Sedgwick County to implement a stay-at-home order is Dr. Tom Moore, an infectious disease specialist at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

"The problem is that we are now where Johnson County was a week ago, and where Seattle was a month ago," Moore says.

As of Monday (March 23), there are more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in King County, Washington which includes Seattle. As of Monday, 31 of Kansas' 83 total cases are in Johnson County.

Moore says other communities are doing what they can, but he hopes to see Sedgwick County more proactive in fighting COVID-19 (coronavirus).

"They have really had exponential growth in their cases, and they are doing what they can now to get it under control," he says.

Dr. Moore Monday joined Dr. Chloe Steinshauer, medical director of the ICU at Wesley Medical Center, in sharing the importance of county action, and why they say the community needs it now.

Steinshauer adds these actions would help, not just in the coming days, but in the continued fight against COVID-19.

"We know that there are community cases of COVID-19 being spread and with that, we expect to see exponential growth," she says. "The goal would be to use these measures to flatten the curve so that we don't see a surge that overwhelms the system."

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Update 4:05 p.m. Monday, March 23, 2020

Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz confirms the county's third presumptive positive case of the coronavirus.

The announcement came at a special Sedgwick County Commission meeting. This meeting follows a meeting Sunday at which commissioners asked county leaders to draft a stay-at-home order.

Businesses likely to be exempt under such an order include Spirit AeroSystems, Textron and NIAR because of their defense-contract work.

Also likely considered essential businesses that would be exempt include grocery stores, gas stations, media outlets, medical facilities, daycare facilities and auto shops. Restaurants that provide takeout and delivery services would also remain open.

A stay-at-home order is not the same as a lockdown. Instead, it's designed to limit the movement of people and interactions with one another while maintaining those essential services.

The goal is to limit the spread of the virus so it doesn't overwhelm hospitals.

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The Sedgwick County Commission will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday and action will be taken, according to Commissioner Lacey Cruse.

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During a daily briefing Monday morning, Cruse thanked bars and other establishments that have closed down in assistance to assist with social distancing.

"Thank you to our community members. We have restaurants that are closing down. There are some social establishments and bars that are closing down. If you haven't considered doing that, do it now. Stay home and get some projects done around your house. Do what we can to keep our community safe, but the most important thing is to stay calm," said Cruse.

She reiterated a plea County Manager Tom Stolz made on Sunday for protective personal equipment: masks (N95/surgical), rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, surface cleaner and COVID-19 sample kits and test materials.

Sedgwick County Health Department Director Adrienne Byrne gave a few more details on the county's second case of COVID-19. She said he is a man under the age of 60 who traveled to Colorado.

She said he developed symptoms upon arriving back, called his doctor and was tested. His only close contacts are his family members. He has been in home isolation.

There continues to be a need for blood since so many events were canceled in accordance with social distancing guidelines: 6 feet or more and less than 10 minutes. Cruse said if you are able to donate, call to make your appointment.

The Small Business Association is offering economic injury disaster loan assistance. The Wichita Community Foundation Fund has activated two funds to provide relief for the city: The Emergency Fund for Wichita non-profits and the Stand with Wichita Fund for individuals in Sedgwick County (through the Salvation Army). Details and donations to those funds can be found at wichitacf.org.