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The emergency planning committee heard more local updates on the pandemic Wednesday morning but the big takeaway is that Labette County still has no positive cases for COVID-19.

Some tests for the disease are pending and people who tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, work in the county or have visited the county.

Neosho County announced its first case Tuesday, a woman returning from Germany, and Crawford County announced its third positive COVID-19 case Wednesday. A third Kansan has died from COVID-19, a man in Wyandotte County.

Charlie Morse, Labette County’s Emergency Operations director, and Brandy Grassl, the Emergency Operations coordinator and 911 director, updated committee members in the video-conference on Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders that relate to the pandemic and new limits on social gatherings to 10 people.

Morse noted there are three pages of exemptions to the social gatherings as long as people practice social distancing, maintaining at least 6 feet between them and other people. There are no local orders in place to close restaurants or bars, though some have limited in-house dining or eliminated it and are offering curbside or carryout orders. Morse said some restaurants have closed. He urged committee members to continue to support local businesses as they can.

Grassl said Kelly is allowing cities and counties to decide how to manage people in quarantine or self-isolation.

“If we were to forcefully make someone quarantine or isolate in their house the legal ramifications and issues just become tremendous,” Morse said. “We’ve had the discussion if it would happen how we would handle it and it would just be a total nightmare.”

Several members of the committee, which include law enforcement, first responders, city, county and school officials, as well as representatives from nursing homes and other health care organizations, asked about parks and park equipment.

Grassl said Altamont closed its city park playground equipment.

The city of Parsons closed its bathrooms in city parks and recommends that children do not play on the equipment as it is not sanitized and could be a way to pass on the coronavirus. 

John Wyrick, Labette County USD 506 superintendent, wrote on a chat feature of the video conference that USD 506 schools are recommending the public stay off the school’s playground equipment.

Morse thought it important that the public still have access to city parks to get exercise and maintain some form of “normalcy,” especially for those not in quarantine but staying at home as much as possible.

Jim Zaleski, the city of Parsons economic development director and Labette County tourism director, wants the public to use parks and trails and maintain safe social distancing while enjoying them. Staying inside could make things worse for people.

Zaleski also volunteered to provide updates each day at 4 p.m. on the city’s public information Facebook page about local changes and discussion from the committee meeting.

On Wednesday afternoon, he wrote that campers are still allowed at Lake Parsons, but the bathrooms remain closed there for safety. The city is not taking reservations now for use of shelters at city parks and the city supports citizens following the 10-person limit to any gathering.

While playground equipment is not blocked off in the city and at Lake Parsons, Zaleski wrote that the city does suggest that it not be used for health and safety reasons.

Committee members also heard Wednesday that the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center is in need of thermometers, either for the ear or forehead. Contact Mike Dixon, 421-6550, if you have any they can use.

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