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Surge in COVID-19 cases brings concerns about possible shutdown

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 10:37 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Hospitals across the state ask Kansans to wear masks and social distance as COVID-19 cases surge. Leadership with Wesley Medical Center approached Sedgwick County to ask for tighter restrictions to the local health order as Wichita hospitals are overwhelmed with a spike in COVID-19 patients. The next few days are crucial to what Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns will decide in terms of whether or not the health order in place will tighten.

Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said a tough consideration is whether the county could be put in a position to shut down some businesses again or if the spread of COVID-19 to employees or customers could lead to businesses having to shut down. Stolz said there’s a balancing act with which the county is trying to keep up.

Recently, Wesley Medical Center reported that about 10 percent of its COVID-19 patients won’t leave the hospital. The tighter restrictions hospital leaders recommend could help slow the virus’ spread, but it could also be devastating to businesses like bars, nightclubs that have already been hit during the pandemic. Sedgwick County Commissioners don’t want to see it happen again.

“I don’t want to shut down. The economy was shut down back in March and what we heard would hurt those small businesses,” Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis said.

Fellow county commissioner Lacey Cruse said the best way to “keep every single thing open and functioning” is for people in Sedgwick County to strictly follow the current order, wearing masks in public, avoiding large groups and keeping social distance.

Commissioners say they need the community to understand.

“We’re really worried about Thanksgiving coming up with large gatherings and so forth. So please, do your part, and if everyone does their part, we can get through this.”

Sedgwick County Commissioner Pete Meitzner said the question Kansas counties and the region need to ask themselves is “what can we do to help slow the spread of this virus?”

Cruse said the options essentially are to buckle down and follow guidelines now or “prolong this out and stress our hospitals to the max.”

A decision regarding Sedgwick County’s health order and to what degree, if any, it will become more restrictive is expected early next week from Dr. Minns.

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