Task force will advise the phased reopening of Riley County if authority returns to local level

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(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

Director of Riley County Emergency Medical Services David Adams said there is some information circulating about the possible phased reopening of the county, but all of that is just speculation until Gov. Laura Kelly makes a decision about statewide orders.

The governor said she will make an announcement about future statewide orders Thursday evening. Local orders cannot be more lax than those laid out by the executive branch of the Kansas government.

If total authority is returned to the counties to make orders and decisions, the Greater Manhattan Area Recovery Task Force — made up of local leaders in business and health — will recommend a step-by-step plan to reopen the county. Final details of the recovery process will not be made available until all steps are accounted for and the county has collaboration from other leaders in the region.

When the time comes, it will be important for everyone to be on the same page, Adams said.

“This isn’t just about Manhattan,” Adams said. “We’re trying to do this as all encompassing as we can.”

The recommendations that come out of the task force — led by Ascension Via Christi Hospital CEO Bob Copple and president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce Jason Smith — will include social distancing guidelines, best practices for local businesses and other important steps to protecting the overall health of the community. From there, Copple said, the recommendations will be taken to the local authorities who will consider them and make final decisions about local orders.

Whatever decisions are made, some kind of social distancing will be necessary for the foreseeable future, Adams said.

The task force will meet at 11 a.m. on Friday. The governor’s order is still actionable until May 3, and local orders would take effect as soon as that order expires.

While Kansas has likely seen its peak in new cases, Adams said the local peak is possibly still a week out.

Copple also stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public — not necessarily for your health, but for the health of those you interact with. Masks should fit snugly over your nose and go under your chin.

“It’s just a good step to take to limit the amount of stuff getting spread or pushed out in the air,” Copple said.

Facial hair can reduce the effectiveness of wearing a mask because it prevents a seal between the mask and the skin. Commercially made masks are certainly ideal, but cloth masks work as well, provided they are washed after each wear.

Riley County reported two new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the countywide total to 49.

The new cases are presenting in a 37-year-old female and a 29-year-old male. Both are recovering at their homes. There are no known COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized from Riley County.

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.

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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.