GIRARD — After publicly answering questions and presenting plans Thursday for allowing businesses to reopen, Crawford County officials have had to reevaluate following Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement on the expiration of her “stay-at-home” order later in the day.
Although the “stay-at-home” order and some other restrictions are expiring, allowing some business that have been closed to reopen, other types of businesses that the county government hoped could reopen while still taking coronavirus precautions — notably including bars and nightclubs, casinos, and personal service businesses such as salons and barber shops — remain prohibited from reopening during the first phase of Kelly’s plan.
At a work session Friday as well as at their regularly scheduled meeting, Crawford County commissioners discussed some ways that businesses may be able to change their operations to reopen in a limited capacity.
Commissioner Tom Moody noted that if a bar serves food and is therefore also a restaurant it could probably reopen under the state’s new guidelines.
“But if a bar repurposes and becomes a restaurant, then you’re also allowed,” Commission Chairman Bruce Blair said, which County Health Officer Rebecca Adamson said was what she understood the governor’s order to say.
Other businesses, however, are likely to have more difficulty finding any way to reopen within the first phase of Kelly’s new plan, which is expected to last for at least two more weeks.
“There’s some that, yeah, you could probably get creative and make a go of it, but the nail salons, barber shops, I have no idea,” Blair said.
“If a barber shop called me and said I’m going to put a restaurant in my barber shop I’d say you need to call the Department of Ag and when you get a restaurant license I will be happy that you can be open,” Adamson said.
“My heart goes out to those people because I can’t imagine, you know, how hard it is for people, especially like salons and things, they just don’t have any way to make any money right now,” she added. “And I’ve gotten phone calls just pleading with me, and I don’t have a lot of control over more than what we’ve already done.”
Mark McClain, co-owner of Drop The H Brewing Company in Pittsburg, addressed the commission Friday, urging them to do anything possible to allow businesses to safely reopen — or at least to not do anything more restrictive than what Kelly is requiring.
“On the restaurant vs. bar question, I can’t speak for every municipality in the county, but I know in Pittsburg they delineate that every month, they look at our records between alcohol sales vs. food sales to determine which of those criteria we are,” McClain said.
“I think you gentlemen have a great opportunity to show some leadership for the entire state, and sometimes one of the best things to do is to have the circumspection to do nothing. So you are not required, that I’m aware of, to add or amplify the governor’s edict. I don’t think any amplification is necessary, prudent or helpful,” he added.
“Right now the governor is using a one-size-fits-all, statewide policy,” McClain said. What may be a good policy for a county in the Kansas City metropolitan area with a particularly high number of coronavirus cases, however, may not be the best approach for other parts of the state, he said.
“Now the opportunity that I would suggest to you gentlemen is saying ‘No amplification,’ and imploring the governor to let individual counties make their guidance,” McClain said.
In response to McClain’s comments, Adamson noted that while she had not yet announced it during Friday’s work session, Crawford County had another coronavirus case confirmed Thursday, bringing the total confirmed in the county to eight so far, with one death and six of the eight now out of isolation after sufficiently recovering.
Adamson also said that prior to Kelly’s announcement of her new plan late Thursday, Crawford County was planning to implement a more lenient policy.
“Actually our original plan was less restrictive than the governor’s,” Adamson said. “We wanted every business to be able to open in some capacity.”
Adamson noted that throughout the coronavirus pandemic, nobody in the county has been fined for a violation of the restrictions that have been put in place. She does not know of any other county in the eight-county public health region that includes Crawford County, “that has been as transparent and willing to work with the community as us,” she said.
Adamson said she has advocated for businesses such as the Holiday Lanes bowling alley in Pittsburg, which has come up with a plan that will soon allow it to reopen.
“If I did not do that they just wouldn’t be able to open,” she said.
“It’s not that simple just to say ‘Do nothing.’ If we do nothing, the businesses that aren’t listed on here will not be able to open. So I want everyone to be able to open in some sort of capacity. I do not want any business to have to close or file for bankruptcy,” Adamson said.
Crawford County’s new policy will not require anything to close beyond what the governor is ordering, but has it to follow Kelly’s order, she said.
“I will also just state, by state statute as the county health officer, I have the right to pass these orders on my own and I choose not to do that because I don’t feel like anyone in government should work unilaterally,” Adamson said, but “no one has the right to give someone else a disease that will kill them without some sort of prudent action to try to prevent it.”
Adamson said some of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus such as social distancing and washing your hands are common sense and the government should not have to force people to follow them.
“It’s not a matter of someone telling someone else what to do, it’s someone choosing to do the right thing, choosing to protect their family and their friends, their community,” she said. “So if we do the right thing for the next two weeks, things could go hopefully very smoothly for Crawford County.”
Blair said he wanted to clarify that it’s possible that phase one of Kelly’s new plan could remain in place for longer than two weeks, and it was unfortunate that as a result of the governor’s order, the county could not be as lenient as what it had planned.
“It’s not our call,” Moody said.
“We have no control, zero, what comes down from the state,” Adamson said. “I am on KDHE calls every single day and have commented that I feel like we are at a level in Crawford County that we can safely open all of our businesses, but that is not up to me.”
The commission ultimately rescinded a previous county government order Friday that would have gone back into effect following the expiration of Kelly’s order that was in effect through April, and approved the policy drafted earlier this week by county officials with the exception of the parts of it that had been less restrictive than Kelly’s new order.
“We have very little in here that’s more restrictive than the governor’s order,” Adamson said.
She noted that not only business owners but the county government will be impacted financially by the ongoing business closures.
“These are effects we are all feeling financially,” Adamson said. “I’ve had to close my own personal business, so none of us are exempt from feeling the pains of all of this, but we still have to be prudent and use common sense when it comes to protecting one another.”