Riley County residents not engaged in essential work or activities will have to stay at home for a 14 day period starting Sunday, Marcy 29th to stymie the spread of COVID-19.
The Riley County Health Department issued the stay at home order on Friday, which will stay in place until April 12th — though that could be re-evaluated and extended depending on local conditions. The order comes as cases of novel coronavirus infection continue to increase in Kansas, up from 168 on Thursday to 202 on Friday afternoon. No new cases were confirmed in Riley County, which has had two positive results, 37 negatives and is awaiting the results of six more tests.
“Our message is the same,” says Riley County Health Department Director Julie Gibbs. “Stay at home unless you need essentials like food or you need to get out for health care.”
The order expands a March 22nd order issued by the department that limited public gatherings over 10 people, closed dining rooms and other businesses that cannot maintain CDC recommended social distancing. The new order will close retail businesses including clothes and book stores as well as entertainment businesses.
Grocery stores, essential government services, restaurant carry-out and delivery services and pharmacies will remain open and exercise will still be permitted while residents abide by CDC social distancing recommendations.
“We’re well aware of the fact that the decisions we make and that Julie puts out impact both directly and indirectly all of the citizens of Riley County,” says RCPD Assistant Director Kurt Moldrup. “Please understand that these decisions also affect our friends and our family members and we did not come to this decision easily.”
Moldrup says they will be working to contact business owners to provide guidance about what they will be expected to do.
Riley County is working with Pottawatomie County to ensure the language used in Pottawatomie County’s pending stay at home order are similar, though they say that announcement will come at a later date. As such, the order is not in effect on the Pottawatomie County side of Manhattan.
Moldrup says enforcement is a tricky question and will be handled under best judgment. The goal, he says, is not to be punitive but to get individuals and businesses to abide by the order for the community’s safety.
“We’ll meet with businesses that we believe might be violating it or we get complaints that are violating it to encourage them, educate them and try and gain compliance.”
Those outdoors for essential purposes will not need to carry papers verifying their business and Riley County is not issuing any travel restrictions from other counties, though KDHE quarantining guidelines are being followed.
“I believe we were able to hold off issuing this stay at home order as long as we did because of the voluntary and responsible compliance of the majority of our community,” Moldrup says.
Moldrup tells residents concerned that their employer is not complying with the order or that they are not following CDC guidelines to contact RCPD, RCHD or Manhattan code services.
“I understand this is a difficult time for everyone,” says Gibbs, “so please continue to check in on one another and be patient. We have a strong community and we will stay strong if we practice these good measures.”
Call the RCHD q&a hotline at (785) 587 – 4523.