Sedgwick County announced tighter restrictions on the size of public gatherings Monday to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Until further notice, indoor and outdoor events that bring together 50 or more people are not allowed. The county on Friday had prohibited gatherings of 250 people or more.
Dr. Gerald Minns, Sedgwick County’s local health officer, says the new ban is needed to further control the introduction and spread of the coronavirus, which leads to COVID-19. As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sedgwick County.
The 50-person gathering ban applies to restaurants, bars, event centers, theaters and other venues with confined spaces. It does not include office space, residential buildings, transit systems and grocery stores because those areas generally have a separation of people.
“The prohibition is in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and general best practices which were declared over the weekend,” Minns said at a news conference Monday.
Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner says most county offices will continue normal operations.
“I think that the county manager and the court systems are looking at what public departments will have a negative impact,” Meitzner said.
The 18th Judicial District is already adjusting court business operations at the Sedgwick County Main Courthouse, the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse, and the Sedgwick County Juvenile/Probate Courthouse:
- Anyone directed to report on probation or for interviews with court services officers should report by telephone and not report to the courthouses in person
- Traffic cases are postponed until April 6, and there will be no morning or afternoon traffic walk-in dockets
- Some juvenile cases will be continued administratively
- Wichita Municipal Court will also be closed from March 18 until April 6
Meitzner declared a state of local disaster emergency to allow the county to tap into federal and state assistance for the coronavirus threat. The county activated its emergency operations plan to allow collaboration among public safety agencies, local health officials and county agencies.
“The declaration really gives the county government the flexibility to manage operations in a rapidly changing environment," Meitzner said. "It also puts us in line to make federal and state assistance available."
He said county leaders are meeting with public school officials this week to discuss the possibility of extending spring break. Wichita Public Schools and other districts in the region are on spring break through March 20.
Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne says the health department is working on setting up a public site to offer coronavirus testing.
“There’s just a lot of moving pieces to [testing], and we need to ensure we have ample testing supplies to be able to do that,” Byrne said.
Last week, two private labs in Kansas received approval to process coronavirus testing in addition to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) labs in Topeka. At this time, KDHE is using strict criteria to determine whether patients will be tested.