Following the widespread cancellations on a national level late last week, Sedgwick County and the city of Derby announced some policy decisions of their own to go into effect immediately regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
After a case presenting at Wesley Medical Center, Sedgwick County held a press conference March 13 in which a ban on public gatherings was imposed. Initially, that ban restricted public gatherings to no more than 250 people, but it has since been amended to allow for no gatherings of more than 50 people in the immediate future. The decision was made based on a recommendation from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Obviously, the health and safety of our citizens in Sedgwick County is our top priority,” said commission chairman Pete Meitzner. “We’re all in this together. We’re trying to stay positive. We’re trying not to panic.”
“These things that are being put into place, this is all about precaution,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne.
While certain cities and states have banned restaurant dining, commission chair Meitzner said no such official action has been taken in Sedgwick County. Restaurants can continue operating as long as they have no more than 50 people on site at any time.
Grocery stores were also not addressed outright, though aisles at local retailers – like the Dillons on North Rock Road in Derby – continue to be picked over by concerned consumers.
Local Health Officer Dr. Gerald Minns noted the county will continue to assess the conditions leading to the ban on an ongoing basis, which is being taken as a preventative measure. Minns stated Sedgwick County residents remain at low risk as there have been no confirmed cases reported among said residents.
The City of Derby is currently monitoring the coronavirus situation and asking employees and residents to take precautions. The health of the community and residents is of the utmost importance.
One such precaution the city is taking is to shut down Derby City Hall and the senior center at the close of business on March 17 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city will monitor the developing situation and make changes as needed. Staff will continue to work normal schedules and be available by phone and email. No reopening date has been set as that depends on what happens with the coronavirus moving forward.
At this time, small city meetings and small events will continue as scheduled – in concurrence with the county’s gathering size restrictions. Additionally, the city will be implementing social distancing techniques to prevent spreading germs. For example, chairs in meetings are being spaced farther apart so people have less risk of exposure to someone else’s sneeze or cough.
“With a changing situation, it is difficult to know what to expect,” said Kathy Sexton, city manager. “Preparing for what might come, whether an infectious disease or severe weather season, is something we each need to do to keep our community safe and healthy.”
“I think it’s fair to say, like everybody else, we’re just struggling to keep up with all the changing information,” Sexton said, “working to take things seriously, but also keep our sense of humor, keep our calm and know that we will get through this somehow, someway. That’s kind of our overall attitude.”
Meetings still ongoing include planning commission (6:30 p.m., March 19) and city council (6:30 p.m., March 24), though residents are encouraged to watch the two public meetings live on the city website or on Cox Cable Channel 7. Meeting recordings are also available on demand.
During the closure, all tours of Derby PD and Derby Fire and Rescue will be cancelled. Only scheduled visitors and individuals needing to pay a ticket will be allowed at this time. Additionally, utility payments (which generate a lot of walk-in traffic) can be left in the drop box at city hall.
The municipal court is one service remaining open, though those feeling sick are encouraged to call in and request a continuance. The Derby Dash will also continue to provide public transportation, though the maximum number of riders will be reduced from 14 to seven to ensure appropriate social distancing.
“We’re trying to keep meeting those needs, just trying to find creative solutions sometimes,” Sexton said.
“Our management staff are in pretty much constant communication and obviously watching the news, reading about what’s going on and trying to do what’s best for our community, our employees and for our residents,” said Communications Director Kristy Bansemer.
To stay updated on the latest news in Derby, follow the city on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DerbyKS/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/derbyks) for updates on severe weather, coronavirus and other community issues. You can also sign up to receive news updates on the city’s website at http://derbyks.com/list.aspx.
UPDATE: Friday, March 20, 1:32 p.m.
The Derby Recreation Commission posted an FAQ that details plans for membership, spring programming, kids club etc.
For full details, see below.
March 16, 2:39 p.m.
New mandates by the Sedgwick County Health Department made Derby Recreation Commission closings almost inevitable.
Following the decision to prohibit gatherings of 50 or more, the DRC announced that its Derby fitness facility, Hubbard Arts Center and Oaklawn Activity Center would all be temporarily closed as of Monday evening, March 16.
According to the statement released on DRC social media, all associated programs are temporarily postponed, including the launch of spring programming on Monday, March 23.
“While this wasn’t an easy decision, we felt the direction and momentum that we’ve seen around us [led to this call],” Drum said. “First it was the schools shutting down even though they were on Spring Break. The declaration by the county is what really triggered this decision… it confirmed our thoughts and what we had potentially been making plans to do.”
Drum said the first steps taken will be to see how they handle memberships with the news of the program and facility cancellations. The superintendent also shared that they are researching credit or reimbursements toward spring programming. They will be modified, but the risk of canceling does still exist depending on future decisions made at the federal, state or county level.
“We’re certainly not putting a time on this,” he said. “Things can change and we’re being told the worst is still yet to come. We’re trying to be very fluid and make decisions on a weekly basis. It’ll be similar to what the schools are doing, but that could change.”
Drum said that finishing touches for the Hubbard Arts Center, including exterior painting and landscaping, will continue. That includes all other contracted work as well.
With the recommendation by the CDC to see gatherings of 50 or less through mid-May, he also shared that the grand opening of the facility (April 24 and 25) may be in jeopardy.
The announcement to close came after increased attention on disinfecting and cleaning surfaces through all three facilities.
Despite Monday’s decision, Drum said he is proud of how his staff handled initial plans of keeping the facility open.
“We feel that our staff has done a great job of cleaning and we’re proud of what they did for our facilities,” Drum said. “We wanted our community to understand we were doing everything in our effort to keep people healthy. We had added hand-sanitizing and disinfectant-wipe stations and made sure we were sharing the things that our staff was doing.”
The full statement from the Derby Recreation Commission Facebook page is below.