Health officer makes extension of Johnson County stay-at-home order until May 11 official

Signage outside Mission Farms in Leawood encourages people to help local businesses during the county's stay-at-home order. The county's health officer on Thursday announced he was extending the stay-at-home order through May 11.

Note: The Shawnee Mission Post is making much of its local coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here).

Although Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is not expected to extend the statewide stay-at-home order, Johnson County’s will continue for another week, until 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 11.

Joseph LeMaster, MD, MPH, the county health officer, has signed the documentation to officially extend Johnson County’s stay-at-home order a week later than many had expected. LeMaster had explained the rationale behind his recommendation to delay the reopening at a meeting Wednesday, where it was met with protest from some members of the county commission. But LeMaster said extending the order is necessary because outbreaks of COVID-19 have continued in neighboring counties. Some 253,000 residents travel in and out of the Johnson County each day.

While the federal criteria for beginning to reopen business have been met in Johnson County, “the virus does not respect county lines,” LeMaster said Thursday.

The county’s order had been due to expire this weekend, along with the statewide order. The idea of continuing the shutdown of business considered non-essential has frustrated some commission members, who have said not enough attention is being paid to the financial suffering.

“I’ve got a concern that the economy has not been factored into this discussion,” said Commissioner Mike Brown. Small businesses, at least, should have been able to open next week as long as owners keep to the distancing and cleanliness rules, he said.

Commissioner Michael Ashcraft asked for assurance that business really will reopen without a further delay. But both LeMaster and Public Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola replied that another extension on May 10 is unlikely.

The new sunset date is the best balance between economic and public health risk, LeMaster said, and will take place, “barring a complete explosion of cases and hospitalization.”

Areola said so far the numbers support a reopening date of May 11. “You can never say never but I’ll be surprised if the number trends a different direction.”

LeMaster warned that much is not known about the virus, which can have severe complications across the age spectrum. He encouraged county residents to continue to be careful about exposure and to mind cleanliness and distance rules. “We must seek common ground for the common good,” he said. “We must all do our best to protect and support each other.”

Cases in Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village continue to grow

Meanwhile Areola told commissioners a Prairie Village senior living facility continues to be a hot spot for a COVID-19 outbreak.

Brighton Gardens has recorded 32 cases since the outbreak began. In the past week that facility has added 11 new cases, according to a county report. Deaths from COVID-19, which stood at three a week ago, have doubled to six. Brighton Gardens now surpasses Forest Creek Memory Care of Overland Park as the facility with the most cases.

The county began listing all the long-term care facilities with at least two cases about a week ago. Since then most of them have managed to keep their cases the same and a few have added one case.

Areola said a fellow from the Centers for Disease Control toured Brighton Gardens last weekend and concluded proper procedures were being met, but county and state officials are continuing to investigate because of some new concerns, which he did not elaborate upon.

In the meantime, the residents who tested positive will be separated from those who tested negative to prevent the spread, he said. The county will also work with Brighton Gardens to get more personal protective gear.

That outbreak began with a positive test by a staff member, Areola said. Overall, though, the rate of infection in long-term care has not been as high as in the general population, he added.

Three other facilities – Brookdale Rosehill of Shawnee, Homestead of Olathe and Stratford Commons of Overland Park — added one case apiece. Cases in the rest remained steady. Lakeview Village of Lenexa is no longer on the list. Its outbreak was on schedule to be considered contained on Thursday.