GIRARD — Numerous executive orders in recent weeks from Gov. Laura Kelly in response to the coronavirus outbreak, as well as an attempt to overturn one of those orders that was then itself blocked by the state supreme court, have led to some confusion about what rules remain in place.
At the Crawford County Commision meeting Tuesday, County Health Officer Rebecca Adamson clarified that even though Kelly’s order last week almost made it sound as if restaurants could reopen if they had their tables spread far enough apart to ensure social distancing, that language was only included because the order was an updated version of an earlier one and was simply amended to include religious groups among those banned from mass gatherings.
The governor’s “stay home” order remains in effect, Adamson said, and still limits restaurant service to delivery, drive-through, or curbside pickup.
“So there’s been a lot of confusion around that, but you’re still not supposed to have people eating in restaurants, basically,” Adamson said.
In response to a question from Commissioner Tom Moody, Adamson said the county has not identified any new cases of COVID-19 since she last updated the commission. There have been a total of six cases confirmed locally, according to the county health department, though some who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have since recovered.
“We still have one person in isolation in the hospital,” she said. That person had been in the hospital for almost a week as of Tuesday, Adamson said.
One issue that has come up is difficulties in testing and dealing with homeless people who may have come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus. One man was tested locally and was not found to have contracted COVID-19, Adamson said, but did not have anywhere to go after being discharged from the hospital.
“So it just brought up the issue that Crawford County — especially Pittsburg — does have a number of homeless individuals,” she said. “So we did come up with a plan to isolate and quarantine, if somebody would need that, where they would go to the hospital, get tested, and would be ill enough to stay there.”
Adamson and other officials also discussed church gatherings — which were the subject of some controversy last week when Gov. Kelly issued her order prohibiting religious gatherings, the Legislative Coordinating Council attempted to block the order, and then the Kansas Supreme Court sided with Kelly and upheld the order.
Religious gatherings in violation of Kelly’s order could hypothetically result in criminal charges and fines, Adamson and County Counselor Jim Emerson noted, although that happening appears unlikely, as area churches have complied with the order.
“We haven’t had any issues with it,” Adamson said.
Sheriff Danny Smith said before pursuing those kinds of penalties for religious gatherings county officials would ask area churches for their cooperation and attempt to work with them.
“I really think that would be a last-ditch effort,” Smith said. “I think all the churches have done a really good job.”