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County to lift COVID-19 order
Coronavirus testing plan in the works; 9 Barton County COVID-19 cases out of isolation, quarantine
courthouse covid closure 2
Barton County Sheriff’s Office deputy Brian Batman mans the east door to the Barton County Courthouse Friday morning. Access has been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

On March 26, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barton County Health Officer Karen Winkelman and medical consultant Dr. Stanley Hatesohl issued an emergency order cracking down on establishments where patrons gather. However, that order will be rescinded come Monday, Winkelman told the County Commission during a special meeting Friday morning.

Winkelman also noted she is working on a plan to increase coronavirus testing in the county. But, any plan requires approval from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

As for the order, it closed all restaurants, dining facilities, bars, taverns, clubs, fitness centers, swimming pools, and any public gathering locations or special event (indoors or outdoors) in the county to the public until further notice. However, any such establishment may continue to provide carry-out, drive-through and delivery of food and beverage services.

Winkelman’s action follows Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly who Thursday night lifted the statewide stay-at-home order and eased other restrictions. However, “we continue to be vigilant to the threat of diseases here, and we continue to take measures to prevent the spread.

“Even though Governor Kelly is lifting the order, we have to continue with mitigation efforts, and that means hand washing social distancing using hand sanitizer when it’s available.” 

Measures also include wearing cloth masks when in public, social distancing six feet, and obeying quarantine and isolation orders. Residents should avoid unnecessary travel as much as possible. 

“We all need to do our part,” she said. “So, even though the stay-at-home order is going to be lifted for the state of Kansas, we must continue to do those things.”

Kelly spoke about boxing and the virus, Winkelman said. She noticed a bullet point referring to “robust contact tracing and tracking,” something that is taking up a lot of her staff’s time now.

Commissioner Jennifer Schartz mentioned that people could journal if they leave the house, noting what time they went someplace and where they went. 

“That would definitely help us,” Winkelman said. “When someone is tested, they immediately go into what we call isolation, meaning we ask them to start coming up with that information in the event that we need it, if they turn out positive. And so by journaling, that would already be in place.”

A testing plan

“I have a plan in place that I’m going to finalize and submit it to KDHE for point-of-test drive-through testing,” Winkelman said. “It has to be approved at the KDHE level to have their support and supplies.”

The drive-through model is faster. People can make an appointment so information is gathered ahead of time, she said, adding there is also less potential for exposure and it cuts back on the need for personal protective equipment.

Despite these efforts, “this thing is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to get worse,” Commissioner Jim Daily said. And, there may be an increase in the number of cases with the increase in testing.

“I look for numbers to go up,” she said. “But I also want that data to be quality data, and that we can look at that data and anticipate those next phases and what our actions will be.

“We can always be stricter than the governor, but we cannot be less strict,” she said. “So,it’s very important to me that data collected from any testing is good quality.”

For now, testing will only be done on symptomatic people.


By the numbers

Barton county remains at nine confirmed positive and zero deaths and are confirmed cases continued to be in very varying stages of recovery at this time. She did note that none of the nine remain under isolation or quarantine.

The Barton County Sheriff’s Office has served 138 isolation and quarantine orders since April 2, with 35 of those remaining active, she said. In Kansas as of Saturday, there were 4,746 cases, which was an increase of 297 from Friday and 1,572 since Monday. 

There have been 131 deaths, an increase of 13 since Monday, and 80 counties out of the state’s 105 have cases, which is up four from Monday. The median age is 44. 

In Kansas, the testing rate is approximately 1%. In Barton County, the rate 0.5% testing rate. There are a lot of factors that influence that, such as supplies and testing availability, she said.

The information provided the KDHE shows that 153 tests are performed on Barton county residents.