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Sedgwick County leaders signal possible easing of local health order

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 9:46 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County leaders on Wednesday (Feb. 24) signaled that there soon could be an easing of the local health order. The consideration comes as the COVID-19 14-day positive test rate drops to its lowest level in five months.

The current health order, put in place earlier this month, did take steps to ease some restrictions, but even more easing could soon be on the ways as we’re seeing desired COVID-19 trends in the county.

Under the current order, bars and nightclubs are allowed to remain open until midnight, mass gathering are limited to 100 people, and bars, gyms and restaurants are allowed a cap of 150 people, or 75 percent capacity.

“Understanding that we’re not out of the woods yet and that we still have to maintain those precautions, but it’s feeling good to start loosening things up,” Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse said.

Sedgwick County’s COVID-19 dashboard shows the latest 14-day percent positive test rate dropping to 4.7 percent, the lowest that rate has been since the end of September.

“What you’re seeing in the community is to me, it’s a great community effort for the most part to abide by and respect the health order,” Sedgwick County Commissioner Pete Meitzner said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also down to their lowest level since October.

“Less admissions, less hospitalizations and the census number, or the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is lower, which is very encouraging,” Ascension Via Christi Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Sam Antonios said.

Percent positive test rates and hospitalizations have served as key metrics when it comes to the measures seen in Sedgwick County’s health order. Now, vaccinations are also becoming a factor.

“And as that number goes up, and if the number of infection rates continues to keep going down and our testing numbers keep going down, which they are, that sends a clear message,” Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said.

Sedgwick County leaders plan to meet with the county’s health officer, Dr. Garold Minns on Friday to discuss whether the health order can be relaxed further.

“There’s been a lot of talk about doing away with the curfew. There’s also been talk about capacity limits,” Cruse said.

County leaders say the next move is yet to be determined.

“I’m encouraged, but I don’t want to over promise,” Meitzner said.

The curfew has been a key issue for bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Owners have said getting rid of the curfew that essentially forces them to close two hours earlier than usual, is more important than capacity limits. Unless changed, the health order currently in place is set to expire on March 20.

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