County dealing with COVID updates, wind farms

The Marion County Board of Commissioners met on Monday morning for their regular meeting. They discussed many topics but the two topics that seemed to take the most amount of time were also the two topics that seem to concern citizens the most: COVID and the wind farm.


Diedre Serene, Marion County Health Department administrator, addressed the commissioners regarded COVID concerns.

“As of 7:30 this morning, we are at 112 positive confirmed cases, which is up eight cases from last Monday’s report. Fifty-one probable cases, which is up four cases from last Monday’s report. Sixteen active, and currently three hospitalizations. The health department continues to turn over all non-household contacts to KDHE for contact release and monitoring. As more and more cases occur, more businesses and facilities will see it within their facilities. The facilities that I work with weekly, I’ve encouraged them to designate a PIO to work with the media. KDHE is listing and identifying clusters on their website. Keep in mind, it’s a community event or a high traffic area, I will make the public aware. I will identify clusters when they will potentially effect the public’s health and safety. The health department will continue to work with the facilities to provide information and guidance,” said Serene.

Serene went on to say that the health department has been receiving many calls from people stating that they are a contact so if anyone believes there are possibly a contact of a positive case, they need to quarantine and contact their health care provider, especially if they have symptoms.

Serene mentioned that the health department has been getting a lot of calls as more and more people test positive.

“Also, keep in mind that if you get tested right when someone is identified as a positive and you come up with a negative test, you need to consider that the negative test isn’t always reliable, because you might not have the viral load at that point,” Serene said. “So if you develop symptoms, please contact your health care provider and consider that they will consider if you need testing.”

Numbers tend to go up as flu season comes around and as people stop being vigilant about wearing their masks and staying home while sick.

Serene brought this up.

“As we are entering the flu season, please make sure you are getting your flu shot and staying home if you are ill. I cannot stress enough how important that is for employees, individuals, students if you are ill. I know some of the school are having students stay home 72 hours with symptoms. Please follow all suggestions given,” said Serene.

Serene mentioned numerous studies that have been done that have verified that masks are making a difference. She asked that people continue wearing them or start wearing them again.

“We have seen instances where masks have reduced the spread, so that is important to wear masks when you’re in public spaces. Please do not wear a N95 mask unless you have been fitted with one, as they are in short demand and are needed for health professionals,” said Serene.

Serene offered other words of wisdom.

“Again, please stay home when you are sick, practice social distancing, practice thorough hand washing with soap and water and wear a mask in public,” said Serene. “I will inform you that we plan to have the health fair on Nov. 7, however, due to public cases, only lab will be offered. Both hospitals will be there to draw lab, and individuals must wear a mask, and we will limit individuals admitted at a time.”

Serene asked if the commissioners had any other questions.

“I have an off-the-wall question. This could come out of left field. Have you thought about reporting three or more cases per zip code? This is what they are going to start doing back east per neighborhood where they have a breakout so public can avoid the area,” said Commissioner Dave Crofoot.

“Um, we can look into that,” said Serene. “Right now, the active cases are spread out.”

Crofoot pointed out that people would like to know areas to avoid if there are areas that have a lot of cases, and Serene stated that it made sense.

“When we have a public place that has five or more cases, we will identify that. If it’s a place that we feel the public is high trafficking that place, we will definitely identify that,” said Serene. “An outbreak is considered two. We are gonna see it in businesses and facilities, and we still want to protect privacy, but those are the one that have gotten it out in the open very quickly. If it’s a gas station, or like what Topeka did with the turnpike situation, we will send out a press release. We will make the public aware if there is a danger somewhere.”

Serene pointed out that they are always monitoring and always thinking of the public.

“If a business really gets it and negatively impacted, we want to keep that in mind for any additional funding that may come down the pike. Our businesses can’t afford to get hit and have lost revenue; we need to be careful to help them,” said Commissioner Jonah Gehring.

Gehring asked about a business being quarantined together if there was a cluster in a business.

“It’s case-by-case situation. We have worked with kind of a modified quarantine. Each business is different, so we have to take it case by case,” said Serene. “I know that there have been some offices where people go in at night after most have left. But we just don’t want people sharing the same phones and keyboards and such.”

Planning/Zoning/Env Health – Sharon Omstead – Director

Director of Planning, Zoning and Environmental Health Sharon Omstead gave an update that she had received from Expedition Winds, the company that is attempting to construct wind turbines but is on hold due to ongoing litigation.

“I received a letter from Expedition last week saying that they are actively doing a survey regarding work throughout the area. They gave me an updated purposed schedule. They are looking at submitting the remainder of their applications from December through February and looking at construction mobilization through March for Spring of 2021, substantial completion around August of 2021, and then energizing August through October, and then reclamation starting October to November of 2021. They are expecting to be online around, tied in, by fall of 2021.”

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she had a question and then made statements about an elderly resident who felt pressured by Expedition. She stated that she would like Omstead to make Expedition stop pressuring the residents.

Omstead mentioned that she could bring it up, but it wasn’t her people pressuring anyone, and it wasn’t her job to address it. She stated that she would mention it, though.

“The son called me and talked to me, and I know the whole story, too. Any time you approach an elderly person and say you gotta do something now, it’s not right,” said Commissioner Randy Dallke.

In other business, the board:

•heard from Josh Housman, Director of the Transfer Station, that KDHE came out and did an inspection last week

•got a road and bridge update from County Engineer Brice Goebel. Goebel asked for approval for bids for projects he already worked on.

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