On Wednesday, Ford County commissioners met in a special meeting to set adjustments for the county based on the governor's changes. Among those were giving individuals and businesses the discretion on reopening and setting their own guidelines as to the operations of their business.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Laura Kelly issued a declaration regarding the statewide plan for reopening, making the phases more of a guideline than a requirement for all 105 counties.

Individual counties would be the ones setting gathering limits, business opening guidelines and other attempts at jump-starting local economies.

On Wednesday, Ford County commissioners met in a special meeting to set adjustments for the county based on the governor's changes.

Among those were giving individuals and businesses the discretion on reopening and setting their own guidelines for business operations.

"Where we at now, recommendations shouldn't have gone further to begin with," Ford County Commissioner Shawn Tassett said. "Citizens in the county are going to go to being responsible to their discretion.

"Local businesses will continue to follow recommendations set by the county but they are not requirements, practicing these guidelines will be left to each individual and individual business owner on how to best serve their customers. It needs to be their decision."

As businesses are left to their own discretion, the county will still continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and contact tracing investigations and, if need be, will still be able to enforce quarantine and isolation procedures.

Testing will still continue at Western State Bank Expo Center for those showing signs of the coronavirus.

The county will also maintain the ability to institute a response if there is an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths or if there is a stress added to the local medical community.

"We're happy to have local control back and now the people have more control to what the governor was allowing in the first place," Ford County administrator J.D. Gilbert said. "We are still responsible for the pandemic response whether it is COVID-19 or tuberculosis, we are going to be working on this.

"Businesses will be able to do what they want to do whether they open in 30 days, 60 days, whatever they want."

The county said they will become a resource and service provider for businesses and that the recommendations set will be done on a voluntary basis, not mandatory.

The death total still remains at eight over the past two weeks.

According to Ford County physicians adviser Dr. R.C. Trotter, Ford County overall has seen 200 new positives a week for the past two weeks.

"We were hitting 300 news positives the first of May so we're slowly eking it away," Trotter said. "The hospital numbers remain the same. There are a couple in the ICU, a couple on floor, overall we're testing 141 per 1,000, which is astounding to see that many tested for the area, and it’s needed."

Of the new cases, 20% are asymptomatic. As reopening continues to ramp up, Trotter said he'd like to see the number of new cases decrease to 100 per week.

Now with businesses in the county reopening, Trotter said the emergency declaration is needed to continue to receive the federal resources that have come in and gone to Western Plains Medical Complex, Ford County Health Department and other providers.

"We have received the PPE from FEMA and without governor keeping declaration we are able to keep getting the resources needed," Trotter said. "But still I would like to see people wearing masks when in public.

"It protects the other guy, but go into a larger retailer, it would be nice as a courtesy to everybody else, it would be a nice community thing to do."

As of Wednesday, Ford County reached 1,628 cases overall with 41 hospitalizations, 18 ICU admissions and 27 patients discharged, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The testing rates continue to be the highest in state. There have been 4,761 tests conducted with 3,139 negative tests, giving a positive case rate of 34.2%.

For the state, the number of cases reached 9,337, with 822 hospitalizations, 205 deaths and 75,151 negative tests.

In the special meeting, the recovery rate ratio was brought up to Ford County Health Department administrator Angela Sowers.

Sowers said when looking at the data of the onset date of the virus and through contact tracing and investigation, the rate of recovery is stable at this time.

"The information from each patient is put into a KDHE database for each case, which provides the recovery rates," Sowers said.

With testing rates still being listed as the highest in the state, Ford County Commissioner Chris Boys said it in large part is due to people from surrounding counties coming in to be tested.

"I have spoke with a lot of health care workers who live in counties where the rapid testing just isn't available to them so they have come here," Boys said. "People are being tested here at a high rate because everyone needs to be tested. When I was tested the person in front of me was from Clark County, so I commend the staff here being able to test all that we can."

Recommendations from Sowers and other health care officials state that for individuals, the guidelines need to be maintain social-distancing; wear face masks while in public and maintain proper procedures depending on the mask chosen; practice proper hand washing procedures; remain home if ill or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19; remain home if you are high risk and/or have chronic health conditions; make efforts to limit your personal exposure; monitor federal, state and local guidelines regarding COVID-19 information; and consult with personal medical providers.

The commissioners approved the new guidelines effective immediately with a 3-0 vote.

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