PITTSBURG, Kan. — Crawford County health officials and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce are planning a business forum for next week, which will likely be hosted through Zoom or a similar virtual format, to discuss current expectations related to COVID-19 safety precautions.

Dr. Tim Stebbins, the county’s public health officer, said at Friday’s county commission meeting that he is looking forward to the opportunity to “further explain the current situation, educate, and answer questions and help businesses as needed to improve their processes so they can maximize their business income while maintaining the safety of the public, and so that’s a delicate balancing act.”

The exact time and day of the week for the business forum had not been set as of early Friday afternoon, Chamber President Blake Benson said, but he was looking at next Thursday as a possibility. He said businesses should check the chamber’s Facebook page for updates about the forum.

“I think it will be an opportunity for Dr. Stebbins to address the business community, but then also to be able answer any questions that business owners specifically have about the county’s expectations and what we all need to do to make sure that our businesses remain open,” Benson said.

Stebbins said Friday that the county health department has recently been making progress in communicating its expectations to businesses in a variety of industries.

“I think we have made good inroads there and so that’s helpful, including the bars and restaurants, which is important,” he said.

Besides discussing the business forum, county health officials also gave a general update on the local COVID-19 situation at Friday’s commission meeting, with Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Linda Bean noting that the county remained at an “orange” — or moderate — level of COVID-19 risk.

“We definitely seem like we’re kind of in a steady state,” Bean said. “Unfortunately I wish we were in a steady state more in the green or light yellow, but we appear to be stable but continuing to have a positive rate above 15 percent and, you know, our weekly incidence is still in the red for our population.”

As of Friday there were eight positive COVID-19 cases at Ascension Via Christi Hospital, five of which were on ventilators, Stebbins said. There was one person under investigation as a potential positive case at Ascension Via Christi and one at Girard Medical Center.

There had been 81 new positive cases identified as of Thursday afternoon and four COVID-19-related deaths in the county in the past week as of Friday, Stebbins said. One of those deaths was not a county resident and therefore not technically a Crawford County COVID-19 death, but another death appeared to be imminent, he said, which would bring the total number of coronavirus deaths in the county to 14 since the start of the pandemic.

One area where local officials are continuing to do well is in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the county’s schools, said Bean.

“The schools continue to remain stable and in the green,” she said.

As of Friday there had been only one new positive case identified over the past week in the zero- to nine-year-old age range and three in the 10- to 17-year old age range, and positive cases in isolation had decreased from 20 the previous week to 10.