Riley County Health Department increases gathering size, allows all businesses to open

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(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

As Gov. Laura Kelly returns power to control administrative pandemic responses to local health officers, Riley County issues Local Order No. 10. The order goes into effect Wednesday.

The new order supersedes all previous orders and allows all businesses to open and increases gathering sizes to 50. All restaurants and bars must close to the public at midnight and gathering spaces that seat more than 2,000 are not permitted to open.

The health department maintains the authority to shutdown any businesses that are not in compliance or are declared to be the source of an outbreak.

“The data for Riley County indicates that reopening can continue,” local health officer Julie Gibbs said. “We ask that everyone continue to follow safety guidelines for social distancing and hygiene, so we can continue to see success.”

There are currently no residents from Riley County hospitalized with COVID-19 related complications. As of Tuesday, there are only eight active cases in the county, and there are fewer documented cases than initially projected for the area. Additionally, the rate of new cases across the state is declining.

Kelly’s decision to return control to the county health offices comes on the heels of controversies related to partisan arguments between the state legislature and the governor. In addition to turning her previous orders into official recommendations, Kelly vetoed a bill passed after the legislatures midnight deadline that sought to limit her power to declare a state of emergency.

“This sweeping, hastily crafted legislation pushed through the Kansas Legislature last week includes provisions that will damage Kansas’ ability to respond to COVID-19 and all future disasters,” a press release said. “The bill also weakens local county health officer authorities and adds unnecessary layers of bureaucracy to their emergency response efforts.”

The new local order will last at least 14 days, or until otherwise amended. People who are at high-risk for severe infection are still recommended to voluntarily restrict movement. Social distancing and face masks are still encouraged.

Concerns about businesses violating guidelines can be directed to the Riley County Police Department or through the local response line. Businesses with questions about best practices should call the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce at 785-776-8829 or email info@manhattan.org. Additional resources for reopening local businesses are available at regionreimagined.org.

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Kaylie Mclaughlin
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.