The recent onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our nation and the Leavenworth County government. Suddenly many of our residents face the real prospect of having a job one week and being unemployed the next. The dramatic changes that we face as a nation are staggering.
Many of our Leavenworth County employees and first responders have come forward to educate the public on the dangers of the virus and the importance of following state, federal and local guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining social distance, staying at home as much as possible and only engaging in activities and jobs that are necessary and essential.
Many of our residents have supported blood drives, donated food and offered financial support to organizations like the Good Shepherd Thrift Store, Harvesters, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Local churches and Christian organizations have engaged in finding ways to help those victimized by the virus and its aftereffects.
The events have had an impact on Leavenworth County government as well. Jamie Miller and his team at the Leavenworth County Health Department have been working tirelessly to assess the situation and recommend a course of action that will protect local residents. They are also overseeing the care and evaluation of local cases of the virus as they are identified.
The Leavenworth Board of County Commissioners adopted the first emergency order which established social distance requirements and established a crisis management team made up of County Administrator Mark Loughry, County Clerk Janet Klasinski and Jamie Miller of the Leavenworth County Health Department. These individuals manage on a day by day and hour by hour basis the direct county response, under the supervision and approval of the Leavenworth County Commission.
Leavenworth County’s initial order mandated that group meetings should be restricted to no more than 10 participants. The order allowed businesses like restaurants to serve food via carryout and in some cases allowed food service facilities that had the ability to provide social distance dining rooms to continue serving up to 10 patrons.
As the situation in the metro area deteriorated with additional cases and our neighboring counties implementing stay at home orders, it was decided by the Leavenworth County Health Department leadership and crisis management team, in consultation with other public health professionals, to ask residents to remain at home except for essential tasks. The timetable of the crisis suddenly became 30 days rather than the initial 15 days that had been considered.
There have been many concerns raised about the protective orders. It is certainly true that the civil liberties of our residents have been impacted by recent events. It should be noted that the orders comply with Kansas law and are only temporary emergency measures designed to save lives.
While many local county government departments continue to operate even remotely, much of local government has ground to a halt. There will be no meeting of the County Planning Commission in April, all scheduled public hearings have been canceled in April, hearings that are required for zoning changes, Special Use Permits and variances will not be held. The County Commission itself is operating without public comment, limitations on attendance by the members and with closed meetings that are televised to prevent the spread of the virus.
On a personal note, I believe it would be an appropriate time for all of us to join in a time of private and corporate prayer for our nation. In my lifetime, nothing has ever impacted so many on the health front and in terms of economic impact with the loss of so many jobs.
Please do not hesitate to contact me any time. My phone number is 913-775-2772.
Leavenworth County Commissioner Mike Stieben represents District 5.