The Garden City Commission was updated on the local COVID-19 situation at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Lindsay Byrnes, Finney County medical director, gave the update.

Social distancing is the best tool to stop the spread, Byrnes said. People need to change their behavioral patterns, business activity or business models to "protect themselves, their family and their community."

"It's more than inconvenient, it is a huge change, it is a total 180, but that's what we're asking to do," she said.

The transmission of the virus, droplet transmission, is why social distancing is needed, Byrnes said. People who don’t exhibit symptoms are doing the transmitting.

The recommendation is to stand 6 feet away from others in hope that the droplets don’t make it 6 feet, Byrnes said.

"That is the only tool we have right now to stop the spread of this disease," she said. "Believe me when I say it will be effective, but it has to be everyone doing it. We do not have a vaccine, we do not have an anti-viral treatment, all we have is supportive cares."

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

If anyone feels ill, they should stay home, Byrnes said.

"You can always contact your medical provider," she said. "But for the most part, everybody who can just take care of themselves at home. This also applies to your children. If someone in your household has tested positive ... keep the whole household home."

Additionally, if sick, people should call the Finney County COVID-19 hotline (620-272-3600) and let them know they are sick, Byrnes said.

If they know someone is sick, they can find out where that person has been, who they’ve been in contact with and where and to whom they may have spread it.

This is called disease tracing, Byrnes said.

"That's the public health epidemiology piece that says 'we have to now make sure you're self isolating and we’ve got to know what all these other people are doing too,’" she said. "This is where you’re going to see waves, just waves of people (sick)."

Byrnes said this is why people need to limit their number of contacts with others.

"By the time that you become symptomatic, you already spread it to several people," she said. "Estimates are 7-14 days, I can't give you a specific, but if someone came down with COVID-19 in our county right now and had just been on an airplane in the last week, I'd be trying to find that airplane manifest."

When someone calls the hotline there are a couple of options, said Maggie Unruh, county community health educator.

Option 1 will give the current status of COVID-19 in Kansas as posted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as well as where to find more information.

Option 2 will take them to a representative working the hotline, Unruh said. If it’s during Health Department hours, it will be a nurse at the health department, and if it’s outside of those hours it will be someone from St. Catherine Hospital’s emergency room.

"That person will take them through a series of questions just to access their risk, access their symptoms and likeliness of exposure," she said. "Depending on where that assessment goes, they will be given further instruction, whether that is to stay home, self-isolate, monitor your symptoms or instructions as to come to the health department to be tested and specific things about what that looks like, just so we can continue to take safety precautions for our staff as well as other patients at the health department."

Social distancing can be isolating, Byrnes said, so utilize social media networks and technology to check up on and to keep in contact with others.

"Don't unnecessarily expose yourself, but keep checking up on people," she said.

Unruh agreed, saying people can give someone a phone call, FaceTime message, etc.

"There are ways that we can have contact with people while still not having physical contact with people," she said. "Getting creative about some of those things, how you personally can reach out to the people that you're connected to are going to be key."

Consistent and accurate information is key right now, Byrnes said. She and the emergency management team have been trying to keep the information on COVID-19 as consistent as they can from the various ways and agencies people go to in order to access information.

"There’s a lot of questions and we’ve tried to simplify and make that as streamlined along with our health system and providers here in the county so everybody is getting the same directions," she said.

Byrnes said the public health’s idea is if they get the proper information out to people they will access the situation and make the best decisions to protect themselves, their family and the community.

Information on COVID-19 locally can be found on the Finney County website, Finney County Health Department’s website, Facebook page, by calling the county’s COVID-19 hotline and on signs around town.