County Update: Commissioner Hanzlick responds to frequently asked questions about reopening Johnson County

Janeé Hanzlick said at this week's commissioner meeting, county health director Sanmi Areola predicted it will be 2-3 weeks before the county can consider implementing a phased reopening.

Each week we provide a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to share an update on what issues are catching their attention. This week, we have a column from District 4 Commissioner Janeé  Hanzlick. 

After a month under Kansas and Johnson County stay at home orders, we all look forward to the time when we can safely return to work, see (and hug) our friends and families, get a haircut, work out at the gym, and gather for celebrations at our favorite restaurant.

For some, they count the days until they again receive a regular paycheck and can pay their bills.

Toward these goals, this week the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners authorized the creation of a Recovery Planning Task Force to strategize and implement a phased approach to safely reopen the economy. The Recovery Planning Task Force will balance how to keep the workforce safe and healthy, while also working to reopen businesses and services.

As a member of the Task Force, I would like to respond to some of the frequently asked questions about the group’s work.

What is meant by a “phased” reopening?

A phased reopening begins by easing restrictions in areas with low transmission or susceptibility, while maintaining limitations in locations that have been more greatly impacted by the virus. For example, a first phase may provide for groups of people to return to work using strict physical distancing and sanitation guidelines, while still encouraging working from home whenever possible. A second phase may allow limited public gatherings under stringent protocols. At each phase, public health officials will carefully monitor the impact on the spread of the virus and recommend any needed adjustments to maintain safety.

When can we begin a phased reopening of businesses?

The Centers for Disease Control and the White House have provided three sets of criteria that they recommend be satisfied before beginning a phased reopening. The criteria include testing and contact tracing; healthcare system capacity; and plans (protocols for protecting workers and citizens). The criteria for testing and contact tracing require properly setting up a testing and surveillance system and having reliable sources for personal protective equipment (PPE) and laboratory supplies. Access to testing supplies and PPE remains challenging not only for Johnson County, but also for the country.

Johnson County public health officials, using public health and testing data, are tracking and monitoring our county’s progress to meet the federal criteria. At Monday’s Commission meeting, Dr. Sanmi Areola, Director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, predicted that it will be 2-3 weeks before we can consider implementing a phased reopening.

How can I share my recommendations and thoughts about how businesses and the community should re-open?

We need and welcome the community’s input in this process. If you have thoughts to share, please contact your County Commissioner. Contact information can be found at https://www.jocogov.org/dept/board-county-commissioners/home.