A virtual round table discussion was held during Monday’s Intergovernmental Luncheon with entities touching on how a gradual reopening of business and government may look in the coming weeks.
Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide stay-at-home order expires May 3 and all indications are that will not be extended. Riley County Health Department Director Julie Gibbs says if the order is not extended, any loosening of guidelines locally would be done gradually through mid-May.
“This will be a trickle effect, opening with many safeguards in place, if that decision comes down to local authorities,” she said.
Those safeguards would essentially be in effect for 14 days.
USD 383 Superintendent Marvin Wade says a lot of it with the school district is just speculation at this point, with a pending decision from legislative leaders and the state board of education. Wade says the district is anticipating some federal relief through the upcoming school year.
“It looks like, from the projections we’ve seen so far that USD 383 should get about $668,000 for COVID relief that we could utilize from expenditures we had to start incurring in mid-March through September 2021,” he said.
Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi says the city is forming the Greater Manhattan Area Task Force made up of about two dozen individuals from Riley, Pottawatomie and Geary counties. Its role will be establishing a safe, responsible approach to reopening the economy.
“It is a work in progress, no set deadline, but K-12 is a big part of the discussion with 6,000 students going back and Kansas State University and the decisions they’re going to make with regards to the fall,” she said.
The Task Force was formally unveiled Tuesday in a news release from the City of Manhattan. Chamber President and CEO Jason Smith and Ascension Via Christi President and CEO Bob Copple have been appointed to co-chair the Task Force.
The purpose of the Task Force will be to prepare, plan and support regional organizations and businesses be successful while keeping the community safe. They will provide recommendations to both public and private sectors in phased approaches.
K-State Chief of Staff Linda Cook says the university is developing plans for an “awakening” of on-campus activities. The goal is to move to some form of gradual return to in-person events with a recognition of some requirements they’ll have to adhere to.
“And that’s the widespread availability of the testing kits, a sustained reduction of COVID-19 cases in our community and the ability to maintain that physical distancing in both the classroom as well as in work,” she said. “That’s the top criteria that we’re evaluating as we try to bring people back in some form in the fall semester.”
Manhattan Area Recovery Task Force Members include:
Jason Smith – Co-Chair, Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce
Bob Copple – Co-Chair, Ascension Via Christi
Keith Ascher – Geary County Commissioner
Lonnie Baker – Long Term Care Facility
Dennis Butler – Riley County Police Department
Robbin Cole – Pawnee Mental Health
Dennis Cook – Aggieville Business Association
Linda Cook – Kansas State University
Mickey Dean – Junction City Chamber of Commerce
Mike Dodson – Military/Former Mayor
Fanny Fang – Local business/grocer
John Ford – Riley County Commissioner
Cheryl Grice – Non-profits/Manhattan Social Services Advisory Board
Karla Hagemeister, USD 383 School District
Shilo Heger – Riley County Treasurer
Karen Hibbard – Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau
Kara Holle– Wamego Chamber of Commerce
Ed Kalas – Riley County Health Department
Dr. Ryan Knopp – MHK Clinical Task Force
Kelly Loub – Local business/restaurant
Dee McKee – Pottawatomie County Commissioner
Gina Scroggs – Downtown Manhattan, Inc.
Lisa Sisley – Local business
Julie Govert Walter – Kansas Aging and Disability Agency