MCPHERSON — McPherson Mayor Tom Brown has been reviewing COVID-19 reports — and seeing red.
A graph created by Harvard University that tracks infection rates statewide shows more than 25 cases per thousand for McPherson County — placing them in a red risk category. The county is not alone.
"There are only two oranges. Everyone else our size is in the red. If you look at the state map, there is only one county in the green and that is Ness County," Brown said. "There are four yellows and four oranges. That is nine counties out of 105, the rest are red. We have pretty much blanketed the state."
The city of McPherson has had employees test positive for the virus.
The increasing COVID-19 cases led the commission to make staffing changes at the sewage treatment plant, cutting shifts in half.
"With the spread of the coronavirus, we feel it is imperative to split shift employees at the Wastewater Treatment Plant to help guard against everyone getting sick at one time," said Jeff Woodward, director of public works for the city of McPherson. "We will alternate half staff each week until further notice. Employees are restricted to traveling to any location on the KDHE/MCHD restricted travel list. When scheduled off, while on paid status, the employee must be available by phone, email or to report to work on an emergency basis."
Brown said city departments have "not been hit real hard" and have been able to operate as the disease continues to spread. But he is concerned.
"if this continues we run the risk.. I can’t have too many policemen out. I can’t have too many firemen out," Brown said. "Our firemen were out until 2 a.m. on a structure fire. I am in real trouble if I have to sit someone down with a positive case and quarantine a whole crew. They will not be able to stay up with physical stamina. I need your help. It is common sense."
During the month of October, McPherson city leaders created a "Kick COVID" campaign and passed a mask ordinance stating masks should be worn anywhere social distancing cannot be observed.
"We need people to be intentional," Brown said. "It is an ordinance of choice, and right now some of you are making bad choices. We need to come together and beat this thing and not fight each other."