County to stay in Phase 1.5 until May 31

The Finney County Commission voted to stay within Phase 1.5 of Gov. Laura Kelly’s Ad Astra reopening plan at a special commission meeting Thursday.

The commission voted 3-2, with commissioners Larry Jones and Lon Pishny dissenting.

Robert Reece, Finney Count administrator, said the special meeting was held because commissioners at Monday’s regular commission meeting discussed staying aligned with the state in the reopening plan.

The state is moving into Phase 2, and remaining in it through June 7.

Finney County will remain in Phase 1.5 until May 31.

From data through May 15, the positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in the county is in the 45-50% range, while the state’s rate is just under 20%, Reece said.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, said the testing numbers have gone down significantly this week, but they are expecting a surge due to the county reopening.

"Other communities that have opened up have kind of reported similar findings, and after opening, increased exposures do usually cause increased infections," she said. "We would just expect to follow that same trend as what other communities are potentially experiencing."

Community spread is a concern, Drees said.

"Any time you have mass gatherings or people around people that’s the number one mode of transmission," she said. "We would expect that there would be increased exposures."

Commissioner William Clifford said with graduation ceremonies and Memorial Day weekend it’s up to individuals to "exercise proper hygiene, mask wearing, limit their contacts and keep social distance," to not an increase in COVID-19 cases.

"I certainly think it’s up to the public to help us avoid this surge," he said.

The commission will meet again at 8 a.m. May 29 to review updated data and to discuss whether to move forward to Phase 2.