‘This is still the long haul,’ local health officer says about ongoing pandemic

(Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas’ stay-at-home order is expected to expire at the end of the week, and it’s unclear if it will be extended, revised or allowed to run out.

If the order expires, authority to decide social distancing guidelines will return to county officials. Local health officer Julie Gibbs said specifics about what Riley County would do in this case won’t be made available until Gov. Laura Kelly’s directive is made.

The language and guidelines of local orders hinge on how strict the governor’s order will be — future local orders cannot be more lax than executive orders.

Gibbs said she is expecting the governor to make a decision tomorrow or Friday.

“The goal is to help the community to reopen in a very controlled manner so that we can protect the health and safety of every individual,” Gibbs said.

Additionally, local orders will be made in collaboration with neighboring counties.

“This is to ensure we are using similar language in our order and following the same guidelines,” Gibbs said.

One thing is for certain, though — social distancing will be necessary for the near future, said Vivienne Uccello, lead public information officer for the Riley County COVID-19 response.

“The message is still very strong — stay at home unless you need essentials,” Gibbs said. “Our message is very strong.”

There were no new positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Riley County on Wednesday.

“This is still the long haul; we still have a little ways to go before we’re out of the woods. Just hang in there and keep thinking positive thoughts — we will get through this,” Gibbs said.

Individuals with symptoms are encouraged to call the screening line at 785-323-6400. People with non-emergent questions about COVID-19 in Riley County should send an email to rileycountycovid19@gmail.com.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.