Required or encouraged: Johnson, Wyandotte counties take different approach to reopening

KC Comeback
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is now putting decisions on how reopening moves forward to local leaders.

In the metro, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are taking different paths, but with a common message.

Artie Scholes isn’t used to seeing his bar so empty.

“I never thought I’d miss work, but I do,” said Scholes, who’s owned The 403 Club in KCK for nine years. “It’s been surreal, the experience of being closed down for no fault of your own.”

While many other businesses in Kansas are back open after stay-at-home orders, Wyandotte County is still enforcing Phase 2 of the state’s opening plan. That phase keeps bars closed until June 8, along with large event venues and gatherings of more than 15 people.

“It doesn’t seem to make sense that a casino could be open and a bar cannot,” Scholes said.

But Scholes is thankful for an SBA loan to keep him afloat, and he’s already planning precautions for reopening. Half of the pinball machines are removed. Tables will be spread apart, and there won’t be seating at the bar.

“A lot different than normal, but hopefully it’ll still be a place people want to come,” Scholes said.

In neighboring Johnson County, the health department is urging businesses and residents to keep following the governor’s guidelines, but it’s no longer required.

“I thought the steps we took in terms of shelter in place and those education pieces of getting people to physical distance, to wash their hands — all those things worked,” said Dr. Samni Areola, Johnson County’s Health Department director. “And our numbers were trending very well.”

But he and other health leaders warn: The coronavirus has not disappeared.

Even if physical distancing and space limits are not mandated, they’re still a good idea to limit your risk of getting sick or spreading the virus to others.

“Just because you can, does not mean you should,” Areola said. “You should continue to use common sense and take care of yourself. You might even be immune to the most serious consequences of the virus, but you might spread it to people that aren’t as immune as you are.”

There is still concern as reopening continues that more people could become infected. But hospitals now have experience with COVID-19 patients, and testing capacity is much better now.

Health officials hope, in tandem with all of us being careful, that will help limit the impact of new cases.

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