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County hears concern, praise for COVID response
Commissioners, officials understand frustration
covid-19 Barton

Barton County commissioners Monday morning heard both a parent concerned about his daughter being quarantined due to COVID-19 and praise for their efforts at handling the pandemcic.

“I am here to talk about this COVID-19 and how things are going, and I don’t agree with everything,” said Douglas Ferguson, whose daughter faces her second quarantine from school in Great Bend. He addressed the commission under discussion items at the end of the courthouse meeting.

However, “there are a lot of us out here who support you,” said Cathy Anderson of Great Bend. She presented commissioners with a multi-sheet list of names of those who agree with and appreciate the commission’s efforts.

“You’re looking out for the entire county,” she said.

“It’s new for all of us,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “I know there are people out there who don’t like it.”

“As discouraging as maybe some of this information is, and as distasteful as it is for you ... it’s always best to err on the side of caution,” Commissioner Jim Daily said to Ferguson. “We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination.”

It’s a matter of talking with the school boards and talking with the other officials and trying to work out a solution to this, Daily said. “It’s a problem for schools as well, I mean the schools really struggling.”

Ferguson’s concerns

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, Ferguson said he got a call that his daughter was to be quarantined. However, the school said she could stay until the end of the day.

This marked the second time the girl had been quarantined this month.

This second time ran through midnight Nov. 5 since it started officially on Oct. 22.  So, she had been in school six days and had not received a letter or other communication.

And, it was eight days before they got the phone call. The quarantine letter won’t arrive until this week.

Meanwhile, her temperature has been fine and she has shown no symptoms. 

At enrollment, parents were told students had to wear masks to avoid quarantines. “OK, so they’ve been doing that. We are not even halfway through the school season yet, and this is the second time. These kids already have enough going on in their teenage years. During this difficult time, is very important for these kids to be a school.”

Ferguson said he was bounced from the school district to the Health Department to get answers. “I don’t think we’ve got our ducks in a row to get this to slow down.”

As a divorced father, it has been tough to juggle schedules and activities.

County understands

“I think I understand your concerns, and I share your concerns with you,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. “In a perfect world, we would know right away that a person was positive.” 

But, in a situation that is becoming more common, they are seeing people who feel ill waiting a couple of days before being tested.

For instance, say on Monday, a person became sick and thought maybe it’s just a cold or something. Then by Wednesday they aren’t feeling better and go get tested.

In addition, it depends on where they go for testing. It may be a matter of days before the results are known.

In addition, the Health Department doesn’t get notified for three days. “We’re looking at six days or more before the Health Department’s even notified after symptoms start that somebody has a positive case. 

“So is the is the system perfect? No, definitely not,” Hathcock said. “I can tell you that the Health Department is working diligently, they had over 100 positive cases last week. So you can imagine what they have to do to track down those hundred cases.”

But unfortunately, probably the only way to totally clamp down on the spread would be to close the schools. “And that’s certainly what we don’t want to do.”

County officials are doing their best and working with the school districts in the county.

“A lot of this doesn’t make sense,” Ferguson said. “I know everyone’s just trying to do their jobs. But I’m really quarantining kid this week for four days when it started Oct. 22. It’s already been long enough for her to have shown symptoms and she has had tome to expose other people before they knew about it.

“I would I would definitely ask those questions of school, that’s up to them,” Hathcock said. “The county issues recommended quarantines. So we’ve tried to work with the schools and how they handle those.”

Hathcock said the county follows Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommendations. At first, KDHE  said mask wearing would be considered when looking at the contacts with a positive case.

Now, KDHE and the Centers for Disease and Control have changed their thinking. Masks are no longer being taken into consideration.

Hathcock said they had visited with the County Health Consultant Dr. Jonathan Pike and Health Director Karen Winkelman, and both feel they need to follow the KDHE recommendations.

“I understand your position and everybody’s frustration,” he said. “The best we can do is just keep going as we are and if we catch as many cases as we can before they become symptomatic. But I know it’s not what everybody wants to hear. But unfortunately that’s where we are right now.”