COVID-19 still hitting county as commission gets updates

The Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, April 13 opened with the weekly update by Marion County Health Administrator Diedre Serene. She gave an update on COVID-19 cases over the phone in the meeting.

“As of April 12 at 11 in the morning, Kansas had 1,337 cases, 298 hospitalizations, 56 statewide deaths, and 11,9 16 negatives. Marion County now has four lab-confirmed cases. I did want to point out that there are now some different testing going on so we’re gonna have some different kinds of classifications going on. We are going to have lab-confirmed cases that are confirmed by the PCR test which detects viral RNA and these perform well. That is what KDHE will classify as confirmed cases.

She went on to explain that there are also serology outside of the lab tests.

According to the FDA, serological tests measure the amount of antibodies or proteins present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection, like COVID-19. In other words, the test detects the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself. In the early days of an infection when the body’s immune response is still building, antibodies may not be detected.

They (KDHE) are going to consider cases probable if they have signs and symptoms and are linked to a confirmed case but have no laboratory testing. They are presumptive if that serology is worked within that and they also have clinical criteria. So it can all be very confusing,” said Serene. “What I plan to do is report cases until we get up to five, and then I might instead of releasing every time we get a case, it will be a weekly update. But anyone can go online at any point to the KDHE website and hover over Marion County and get an update.”

County Commissioner Chairman Jonah Gehring asked why the KDHE website was still showing Marion County with only three cases when a fourth was confirmed on Saturday.

Serene answered that there were a few reasons for that.

“Another confusing event that has happened is that a patient has been treated in another county is sometimes not counted in their actual county for several days. Sometimes the address can be in a neighboring county, but it’s assumed it’s in a different county. Sometimes there is a lot of transferring in our tracking site,” said Serene.

Serene gave an encouraging update on the county’s improved grade on movement from last week’s F.

“Unacast collects movement within the county. It had us at a B- but after yesterday (Easter Sunday), we are back down to a C,” said Serene.

For more information on the methodology that unacast uses visit: https://www.unacast.com/post/unacast-updates-social-distancing-scoreboard and go here for the national data:https://www.unacast.com/covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard.

Randy Frank, Director of Emergency Management told the commissioners that first responders are going through supplies quickly.

“We were receiving goggles for first responders, but we are out of those. We are trying to get more of those in. We are also expecting cleaning supplies in for the ambulances as well as the jail and the courthouse. That should be in this week sometime,” said Frank. “Law Enforcement is still doing a great job helping people with food and prescriptions.”

Frank also mentioned that the Sheriff’s dispatch department has been very helpful especially reaching out to churches to help them with creating a plan to help them continue to reach out to their attendees during this time so they are in compliance with everything.

Frank has made contact with a vendor who has hand cleaners and will be in touch with them to see about purchasing from them to out that out for people.

Kent Becker reported that a nursing home in Hillsboro said they received a supply of hand cleaner from the Boothill Distillery in Dodge City.

“We have reached out to several distilleries including one in Reno County. We are on the lists. Just waiting for one to reach out to us,” said Frank.

Voting

“I would anticipate that we may have more people this summer and fall that want to vote by mail or vote by advance ballot and I am just kind of getting ready for that. We’ve always had advanced voting, and it has become more popular in recent years. I was looking up potential for a drop box for us to have for people to use,” said County Clerk and Election Officer Tina Spencer.

Spencer showed the commissioners some examples of heavy duty boxes that would be secure. The proposal is $2,280.

“I thought that we could put it near our handicap accessible entrance to the building,” said Spencer. “It is well lit and is near an entrance that is well used especially if we ever get to the point with courthouse security that we are only utilizing one entrance. It’s easy to add security cameras to view it.”

The commissioners and Spencer discussed different options including a drive-up option and other possibilities with the location of the box. The commissioners also discussed how it all would be handled with the virus still an issue or not.

Commissioner Dianne Novak expressed frustration at being forced to make a decision stating that she felt the vote was too hasty since she hadn’t had time to ponder it.

The vote passed five to one.

Novak then raised a concern she had.

“So, Tina, I have a question talking about the election. You’re up for re-election this year, is that correct?” asked Novak.

“That is correct,” said Spencer.

“Okay, so I am wondering what kind of procedures you have in place for being part of the ballot,” said Novak.

“Well, unfortunately that is the position that your 104 county clerks in the state of Kansas are in. We are tasked with administering the election and our name is on the ballot and that happens every four years. We try to make the procedure and the process as open as possible, but the fact of the matter is, I will have to administer the election,” said Spencer.

“And so your deputy can’t do a big part of it,” asked Novak.

“Um, our whole staff does a big part of the election. It’s a huge undertaking and especially on a presidential year. I will take every precaution and I don’t handle any ballots without someone else also present. We are open in our processes when it comes to counting as you well know,” said Spencer.

“See, I was starting to question that because I know with this last election, everybody was out here in the hall, but you could only look through the window. But there were certain other people in here (the room in which the votes are counted) that probably shouldn’t have been, and so I was just kind of wondering how that was going to work,” said Novak.

“What?!” asked Spencer.

“Well, I know there was a gentleman from the wind farms for a little while and that’s because Jerry Mendoza wanted to come in, because he was a polling agent and wasn’t allowed. So I was going to question how all of that works,” said Novak.

“I’m not sure what you are inferring. The only people allowed in this room on election day are staff,” said Spencer.

“Hmmm. I know I seen him in here and I know other people had too. But we’ll just have to differ,” said Novak.

“You’ll have to tell me who that is, because I am unaware of what you are talking about,” said Spencer.

“Okay, well, I can get his name. I mean I just want to make sure it is transparent,” said Novak.

“It will be absolutely transparent,” said Spencer. “We did set up an area where an authorized poller can walk into the room, a little area in the doorway where they could walk into inside the room but behind a barrier.”

“I will have to get clarification then, because I was told a different story,” said Novak.

“Are there any rules to where we could run a camera just to avoid any issues,” asked Gehring.

“There are some rules regarding photography of ballots so we will have to work with that,” said Spencer.

“I’m just trying to quiet anything that is going to come up here and offer some more transparency,” said Gehring. “Okay, I would like to close that discussion off now permanently.”

County Attorney Brad Jantz did not attend. Randy Dallke attended by video/computer. The meeting was open to the public through computer and phone.

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