https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/160/COVID-19-in-Kansas is a great tool for getting fairly current information for Marion County cases or any cases in Kansas. The tabs at the top can be clicked on for breakdowns in the county. There are graphs and other tools to help one understand all of the data.
The Marion County Board of Commissioners met on Monday with the meeting getting kicked off with an update from Diedre Serene, Marion County Health Department Administrator.
She began by updating on the cases over the weekend (please see our separate article in this edition for the update) stating that we have had 33 cases and 11 are currently active as of Monday a.m.
“Marion County should not be compared to McPherson County, Harvey County or any other county whose population base is bigger. In those counties, it is much harder to deduct who has the case or who is the case based on various information being released. In smaller counties, it is much easier to identify individuals with information released,” said Serene.
She went on to give an example.
“If I say a 49-year-old female living in rural Marion working at Facility A (generic location) and Facility A only has four employees, how easy is it to figure out who the case is versus if a larger county said a 49-year-old female in Park City working at Facility A with 300 employees?” said Serene. “We’ve had a lot of comments on Facebook about why we don’t release that identifying information and that is exactly why.”
When asked about how many of these cases are from outside the county, Serene pointed out that it did not really matter where the cases came from. Once they are in the county, they count in Marion County’s numbers and can be spread. She also indicated that there may already be community spread.
“We do have several cases that may indicate community spread. We do not know for sure yet, but we will release it as soon as we know,” said Serene.
Serene showed the commissioners how to use the Kansas Department of Health (KDHE) website to access the information themselves. (See picture for details)
“I would encourage everybody to just go ahead and use this if you have questions. It is very interactive and easy to use,” said Serene.
For example, Commissioner David Crofoot asked about how many hospitalizations the county has had. Serene showed the county where to look it up to see that 6 of the current cases are hospitalized. The number did move up to 7 later in the day.
Serene cautioned that while the health department is updating information several times a day, it can take KDHE longer to update their records so there may be discrepancies in numbers at some times.
“The lag time is at most a week, right?”
“Correct. The testing sometimes has a little bit of a lag time,” said Serene. “As we all know, cases in the US are increasing and testing is taking longer and getting backed up. If providers are sending tests to Lab Corp and other places, it is taking 5-7 days while KDHE labs only take about 2 days. The problem with KDHE lab is they (the case) still have to meet criteria for a test —if they are a contact of someone and have symptoms or a health department decides a test needs to happen. They won’t just test anyone.”
Commissioner Jonah Gehring, who attended the meeting virtually, pointed out that if someone voluntarily quarantines themselves because of exposure to a contact or for traveling to a hot spot or for any other reason, they do need to let their health care provider or someone know since many employers need a note of clearance from a medical provider. If the provider wasn’t notified, there is no record and no way to say when it is okay to return to work. Gehring mentioned that this had happened to someone which is why he was bringing it up. Serene agreed this was a good practice.
Serene ended her update asking the commissioners about a mask mandate.
“I have received quite a few emails regarding the mask requirement. I think at this point, I’m not sure what the governor is going to put out today, but I feel that we really need to encourage the public to wear masks. I feel that a mandate for masks is the best option to help employers who are having a difficult time getting their customers to wear them,” said Serene. “If the county has a way of surveying, I would like to have a survey put out unless the commission is ready to just go ahead and mandate masks.”
Commissioner Kent Becker asked a question about the number of people out of county being contacted.
Serene again explained to him that her department deals with people in Marion County and those in other counties are handled by their county.
Becker stated that the percentage would be nice to know of how many cases came from out of the county. Serene explained that someone would have to go through records to figure it out and the health department is already so busy trying to manage the current cases and all it involves. It also does not impact Marion County individual cases since this county cares for this county’s cases and other counties care for their cases.
Becker continued to state the need for more information but was unclear on what information he wanted.
“You asked a question about masks if we was (sic) ready to move ahead with that. I think that’s why you are on the agenda and some of that and to keep us updated,” said Commissioner Randy Dallke who served as the chair for the day in Gehring’s absence.”
Dallke asked the commissioners if anyone wanted to move ahead with a mask order.
The room was silent until Crofoot stated, “I would be in favor of it. I’ve had some business people contact me about that and that they would like the county commissioners to be leaders and mandate it and make their jobs easier. Most businesses require it now but they simply can’t enforce it.”
Dallke stated that he also has had calls from business owners saying the same thing.
“I’ve talked to preachers who say that as well, but they are scared to come out and say it,” said Crofoot. “People in the county are looking to us to make these decisions. They are looking to us to strongly encourage or mandate.”
The commissioners continued to discuss it, but no one made any motions or moved to mandate the masks.
In other business, the commissioners:
n approved several new hires including an intern for the election office.
n heard from County Engineer Brice Goebel about how the cost share can be used including the double chip seal that needs to be done at the end of all the work typically needs to be done by Sept. 15 according to KDOT specs. He explained that he faces a problem trying to find certain materials needed. He is also trying to determine if it will be smarter to use a contractor or do it within the county. Road closures will factor into the decision.
n heard a quarterly report from Serene regarding the health department
n met in executive session twice for employee performance issues. These were placed on the agenda by Novak as pertaining to the Employee Handbook but to meet in executive session for that would be against the Open Meetings Act so she changed it, with guidance from County Attorney Brad Jantz, to be for employee performance issues.
n Transfer Station Director Josh Housman stated that the recycling went well last week.