Q&A: Manhattan public information officer about how the pandemic is impacting Riley County

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Peter Loganbill, Collegian news editor: “I know that Riley County had an A grade for social distancing. Do we still have that and what exactly does that mean?”

Vivienne Uccello, Manhattan public information officer: “Unfortunately, no. … Riley County is now at a C grade, and that is really measuring the travel in the community. So, it takes into account reduction in average mobility, kind of based on distance traveled, number of trips, all throughout the county. It also kind of talks about non-essential visits.

“I think they’re measuring, you know, trips to the grocery store versus trips elsewhere, and a decrease in encounter density — how many people are traveling or how many people are kind of in a given area in the community.

“According to the number, we’re at a C now so we’ve seen an uptick in the amount of travel in the community. That’s not necessarily terribly worrisome, but you know, it shows that there, people are getting out and about a little bit more than they were a couple weeks ago.”

Loganbill: “If [the Kansas stay-at-home order] is not extended, would there be a Riley County one in place that would go longer than that?”

Uccello: “Yes, there would, because it’s not time yet to just open things back up like they were before COVID-19. So if the governor’s order does expire, a local order will be put in place that will have the appropriate restrictions for, you know, where we’re at as a community at that time. And the unified command staff as part of the Emergency Operations Center, they’re actively meeting and looking at what those details might be, kind of ironing out that whole plan, and also in cooperation with the neighboring counties, understanding that we’re kind of a regional location.

“We want to do things in partnership with our neighboring counties to have some restrictions in place, the appropriate restrictions, to keep the community safe. So as soon as those details are finalized, we’ll be kind of sharing that information with the public.

“And hopefully, that’s going to be sometime next week. We don’t have you know, the governor’s going to make her decision based on the condition at the time as well. So we don’t really have indication whether or not her order will be extended, and we’re kind of waiting for that guidance as well.”

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Loganbill: “What do you think people need to know going forward?”

Uccello: “The thing that I keep having to remind myself is that this is long-term. I have this urge to like, dream about, you know, ‘OK, when this is all over, I’m going to do X, Y and Z.’ I’m thinking about a vacation I could take, and that’s really a long way away. We’re going to be dealing with COVID-19, really, until there’s an effective vaccine for it. And that could be a year from now, it could be a year and a half from now.

“Things are going to look different than we remember for quite a while, and we’re going to have to continue to make adjustments. This is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s the talk I keep having to have with myself, and I’m guessing that’s something that others might need to be reminded as well.”

Want to learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting Riley County and what Uccello thinks the process of reopening will look like? Check out the Collegian Kultivate podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@kstatecollegian.com.