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On March 19, at the Government Center in Dodge City, the Ford County Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting to decide whether to issue a disaster declaration for Ford County in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motion was to put to vote because of the wide influence and affect that COVID-19 has had on the country so far, making the Board of County Commissioners consider it an "imminent threat" to Ford County.
The motion passed with a 3-0 vote.
The disaster declaration falls under the statutes recognized by the board and states that:
• A state of local disaster emergency exists.
• That it covers the entire vicinity of Ford County.
• This protocol will activate all response and recovery aspects of any and all emergency plans applicable to Ford County.
• The Board of County Commissioners will retain all rights and powers to perform emergency acts, as stated by and through the provisions of the Kansas Emergency Preparedness Act of 1975.
• That it will be recognized as in affect for a total of 14 days unless terminated or renewed by the board.
A motion was carried during the meeting to change the days of operation from 14 days to 60 days, to match the governor’s recent proclamation.
"I’ve been continuing to research about this and I have to say that we as a state, we as a nation have gone over the top a little about responding to this," said 1st District Commissioner Shawn Tasset. "The more I read about it and come to understand how it spreads and that it happens exponentially, the math about it, has really opened my eyes a little bit."
Tasset believes that more stringent measures of action are necessary.
Commissioner Ken Snook, who represents the 3rd District, followed by stating that he believed that ideas could be found among the community.
With the motion passed, all in-person services, provided by Ford County facilities will cease and only essential personnel will be allowed access to those facilities.
All non-essential county services will cease operation and those personnel will be put on paid-administrative leave, all of this falling in line with the disaster declaration.
It is being left up to the Ford County department heads to determine what will be considered nonessential.
County services will continue through online and telecommunication availability.
Tasset said they are still going to be adapting to the new change in processes as they figure them out, while calling it a "proactive move" and saying that while Ford County is stepping into drastic territory, it is important to not panic.
"This is a process we’re going to grow through and we’re literally going to set the curve, probably, for the nation," said county administrator J.D. Gilbert. "I mean most people are just restricting access or some services, not completely shutting down.
"Of course, we’re not talking about Fire and EMS, law enforcement and communications, that’s not what we’re talking about, those are essential services."
A meeting to revisit this vote will take place on March 30.