Winter storm grazes Clay County

Clay County Emergency Management director Pam Kemp follows along with a National Weather Service slide show in a Webinar Tuesday afternoon. (Ryan D. Wilson/Dispatch).

Clay County Health Care providers, Clay County Medical Center, Long Term Care facilities, USD- 379, and elected and appointed officials from Clay County and the cities within Clay County make up our Clay County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The Clay County EOC members have been meeting on a regular basis to meet the challenges of the global Pandemic of the disease caused by the Novel Corona Virus, COVID-19 since February when the disease first drew attention in China.

 For the past two weeks the core EOC group of representatives from those agencies and departments have been meeting daily, listening to the briefings from all the state agencies and all counties in Kansas that are provided via webinar by the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC).

We have heightened infection control and sanitation procedures within the Clay County EOC and have limited access to ensure we comply with the guidance of six feet of space between individuals while we work.

We understand the concerns of our county-wide community during this time and we hope to reassure you that we are working hard to make sure our workers, citizens and visitors are safe.  

We have established incident management priorities that are at the forefront of all of our discussions and recommendations.  Those priorities are: Worker safety and protection; factual, accurate communication between all team members and through public information; Disease prevention and containment within Clay County and Minimize the impact of this incident to local businesses and economy.

Guidance has been issued by the State of Kansas in the form of a series of Executive Orders. Those are available for public review on the Governor’s Website. We are basing our local decisions on the situation in Clay County and Guidance Documents from the Kansas Division of Health and Environment (KDHE). The guidance documents are available to the public on the KDHEKS.gov website on their COVID-19 Resource Center that is updated several times daily.

We encourage our community members to follow those updates and use that KDHE Resource Center as a source for answers to their questions and for accurate information.

There are rumors circulating on social media that are incorrect and could be harmful to individuals and the community. We ask that our community members check the facts before spreading rumors.

We do have one travel related case diagnosed in Clay County that resulted from overseas travel. There are no underlying risk factors in that individual. That individual has been quarantined at home since returning from travel and remains in isolation at home.  Anyone that is a potential contact of that individual has been contacted by the local Health Officers and has received instructions.

Following the issued guidelines of remaining at least 6 feet away from other people, handwashing and not gathering in groups within the community will keep citizens safe.

Other communities have implemented “Stay At Home” orders following the guidelines issued for those orders in Executive Order 20-15. Those communities either have confirmed cases in which the virus has been spread from one person to another locally or their community’s citizens were grossly non-compliant with the issued “Mass Gathering” order outlined in Executive Order 20-14.

Clay County does not have evidence of community spread. But we do have isolated issues and continued complaints of people being non-compliant with the mass gathering executive order.  When those non-compliant locations are identified, the Public Health Officers make contact with the owner in an attempt to mediate the situation.

Restaurants and bars are able to stay open by providing carry out, drive through or pick up orders only. There should not be gatherings in the dining areas. We will not step up to a higher level of restrictions unless it is necessary to do so to ensure safety.

The issued guidance and Executive Orders are being done to keep our community safe. Those orders and guidance given for gatherings must be followed by all members of the community. To disregard orders or try to find ways around the guidance puts the entire community at risk.

Our community will work through this, day by day, for as long as it takes. By working together we can get to the other side of this faster and with less impact than we can if the violations continue.

We encourage every citizen of our county to spend time educating yourself about the disease by using the references we have given you. The knowledge you gain will help reduce your family’s stress level and fear.

Our Clay County EOC partners will continue to work for you and for our community, but the outcome depends on each individual understanding and cooperating with the obligation they have to follow the issued guidance.

-- Clay County Emergency Manager Pam Kemp