Finney County

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — In mid-May, Finney County’s top public health physician sent an email to state health officials repeating worries she’d made clear a month earlier to her local colleagues.

Finney County Health Department Medical Director Lindsay Byrnes warned that the coronavirus outbreak at the local meatpacking plant continued to put workers there, and the surrounding community, at risk.

Finney County residents will be able to get their haircut or get in a workout in starting Tuesday, despite a rapidly accelerating rate of increase in COVID-19 cases.

Finney County Commissioners — acting as the county’s board of health Monday — decided to follow the state’s reopening plan, which allows hair and nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors to open for pre-scheduled appointments. Gyms and fitness centers are also allowed to reopen, but without access to locker rooms or group classes.

Update: Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman said on Friday that Kansas has now identified 250 cases of COVID-19 among workers at the state's six meatpacking plants. The federal government has sent supplies to test thousands of people in southwest Kansas. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending staff to the region.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Two western Kansas counties that are home to meatpacking plants have some of the highest counts of the coronavirus in the state. It’s a distinction that comes as the Tyson plant near Garden City said this week it has several cases among its workers.

None of the meatpacking plants, which make up about 25% of the national beef supply according to a Kansas State professor’s estimate, has shared a specific count of workers with a COVID-19 diagnosis. And the state health department leaves it up to county health departments to decide whether to provide the public with detailed case information.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY — Local officials on Wednesday confirmed multiple cases of COVID-19 at a meatpacking plant in Finney County.

The Finney County Health Department confirmed multiple cases of the coronavirus among Tyson employees at the company’s plant in Holcomb. But those officials did not say how many cases have been tied to the meatpacking plant, which employs 3,800 people.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — All of Western Kansas has just one shelter for children who are in protective custody or are victims of sex trafficking. The new shelter isn’t taking kids yet, because it’s waiting on its license, but local officials say those 14 beds are needed.

GARDEN CITY — Ali Abdi usually cuts meat at the Tyson plant in Holcomb, and was at the plant when a fire broke out and destroyed part of the structure.

He didn’t see it as he and the other workers evacuated, but, he said, “Yes, I was scared.”

Abdi, a Somali refugee who moved to Garden City five years ago, is one of several employees cleaning up the damage. Tyson hasn’t said when the plant will reopen — it could be months. And that uncertainty has a ripple effect on area feedlots, livestock drivers, Garden City itself and even Garden City Community College.

Tyson Fresh Meats plans to reopen the Holcomb, Kansas, beef packing plant partially destroyed by a weekend fire — it’s just not sure when.

Tyson said in a news release that it will recruit some employees to rebuild the plant, which processes about 5% of the country’s cattle.

Wind scrapes across the plains of southwest Kansas like few places in the country.

It drives a booming new industry of turbines that feeds electricity across the region. But at times, the wind gets out of hand.

This week, it plowed across the landscape, causing trucks to swerve on highways, kicking up dust clouds and freeing family pets by knocking down fences.