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Nickolas Oatley / Staff photos by Nickolas Oatley  

Scott Freeby, assistant band director at Manhattan High School, blows Mary Jo Harbour a kiss after playing the trumpet on her 84th birthday on Tuesday. A group of friends drove past her house to wish Harbour a happy birthday while practicing “social distancing.”

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley 

Mary Jo Harbour smiles while talking to her neighbors from her front porch on her 84th birthday.

Some MATC classes will continue with limited, in-person components

Some Manhattan Area Technical College students will return to limited, in-person classes starting April 6, president James Genandt told The Mercury Monday.

The college’s general education and business administration classes, as well as other classes without critical hands-on components, will resume online starting Monday. However, lab and clinical classes will start April 6, with the expectation that class sizes will be kept to 10 or fewer students, in keeping with state requirements on gatherings of people. The school will extended its spring semester through May 29.

“MATC has been in contact with the Riley County Health Department for guidance on the parameters to have limited lab/clinical course access (welding, HVAC, building trades, nursing, etc.),” Genandt said.

“To maintain the integrity of the instruction provided by MATC, we didn’t consider moving exclusively to an online format,” he said. “It is important that our students get the hands-on training vital for them to be successful out in the workforce, especially at times such as these where trained professionals are needed more than ever.”

Kansas’ technical colleges have varied in their approach to class suspensions because of the coronavirus situation. In the area, colleges like Washburn Technical Institute have suspended all in-person classes and moved to online learning for the rest of the semester, while others like Flint Hills Technical College suspended in-person classes for the time being, moving to online classes in the meantime.

Students who return to MATC classes on campus will be required to sign an initial screening document that asks them about their recent travel, potential COVID-19 symptoms and potential proximity to someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of the disease. For each class after, students will need to initial a class roster sheet confirming their previous answers to the screening haven’t changed.

Additionally, the school will limit access to common areas, although an email from Sarah Phillips, vice president of student success, to the college’s employees said the school was struggling to acquire additional disinfectant items to keep the building and its furnishings clean during operations.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to acquire some but if not, we’ll come up with a plan for the interim,” Phillips said in the email.

Genandt said faculty will work with students who may be sick or under stay-at-home orders individually to ensure the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff.

If the health department issues a countywide stay-at-home order, Genandt said the college will continue with online instruction as much as possible while re-evaluating how and when in-person classes could resume.

3rd coronavirus death reported in Kansas amid closures

TOPEKA — A third coronavirus death has been reported in Kansas as more than half of the state’s residents are facing orders to stay at home except for essential services, such as buying groceries or receiving health care.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced Tuesday night that the latest victim is a man in his 70s who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

“We offer our prayers and thoughts to the family and friends of the deceased. Their sadness is our sadness,” Mayor David Alvey said in a statement. “Our own family and friends are precious to us, and so I call on each one of us to protect one another and stop the spread of COVID-19!”

As of Tuesday, Kansas was reporting at least 98 positive cases. Two other deaths had been reported previously in the Kansas City area. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the ages of those who tested positive ranged from 7 to 90, with the median age of 52.

At least 10 counties have issued orders for their residents to stay home in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some of the orders take effect Wednesday while others will start early Thursday. Counties that added orders Tuesday included Sedgwick, the home of Wichita, the state’s largest city, and Shawnee, which includes the state capital of Topeka.

Gov. Laura Kelly has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order but she said on Monday that it might become “unavoidable” as more positive cases of COVID-19 are reported.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Amid the order, the massive Wyandotte County retailer Nebraska Furniture Mart argued it was essential, then closed its doors Tuesday evening, The Kansas City Star reported.

With Americans’ lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” on April 12. But that statement sharply contradicted health officials’ calls for stricter restrictions on public interactions. Scientists and other politicians in the U.S. have warned that the worst is yet to come.

Asked about Trump’s proposed Easter timeline on a video conference Tuesday afternoon, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman was incredulous.

“Did he say what calendar year?” Norman said.

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

A squirrel runs across a picnic table at City Park on Tuesday. The Riley County Health Department ordered playgrounds to temporarily close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fundraiser supporting local businesses raises $100K in grocery assistance in 4 days

A fundraising effort to support the community during the coronavirus pandemic has generated more than $100,000 for residents who need help paying for groceries.

MHK Together, a local fundraising group with 502, a local marketing agency, and the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, along with Shepherd’s Crossing, Konza United Way, Dillons and Hy-Vee as partners, announced Tuesday the total amount of money raised during the first 100 hours of the effort.

Organizers created the program to support the community as the coronavirus pandemic forces people to stay home, businesses to close or cut back on services and hours, and some people to be laid off permanently or temporarily.

The Riley County Health Department on Friday issued an order banning gatherings of more than 10 to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus. It clarified on Sunday that the order closes places where people gather, such as bars, dining areas in restaurants, salons and playgrounds. Places like grocery stores and pharmacies, where people come-and-go, will be allowed to remain open.

“There is no doubt that the economic devastation from this shutdown of our economy, both locally and nationally, is creating very difficult times for businesses of all industries,” MHK Together’s website said. “We chose to support hospitality and retail businesses through this program because these businesses have been disproportionally affected by the restrictions on group gatherings. These businesses play a huge role in supporting our overall quality of life in Manhattan and they need our help.”

Businesses can register through the fundraiser’s website at mhktogether.org. If people buy a gift card from a business through the MHK Together website, the organization will match the amount through a fund at GMCF. The money will be spent on gift cards from Dillons or Hy-Vee and distributed to eligible residents in need.

To be eligible to receive the grocery store gift cards, individuals must be a resident or work in Manhattan and show they have a reasonable need for financial assistance if they have been laid off or have had their working hours reduced.

After approval by the Konza United Way and Sheperd’s Crossing, grocery gift cards will be sent through the mail within about a week.

Vern Henricks, president and CEO of the community foundation, said the fundraiser will focus on distributing grocery gift cards for its first round and will later determine if it is able to continue giving cards to those with recurring needs.

“We’ll take this by a month-by-month basis and make sure we can help as many that need it as long as we can,” he said.

Henricks also said organizers will later evaluate how long it can maintain the fundraiser based on resources and funds. Anyone interested in helping match support for the fund can contact Henricks at vernh@mcfks.org or 785-564-2121.

Blade Mages, principal and founder of 502, said the fundraiser came about in a week from its inception after he met with local partners to devise a plan to help the community in some way.

"Manhattan has a history of coming together and supporting people when they need it," Blade Mages, principal and founder of 502, said, "and we just knew a tool needed to be created to give people the chance to help in any way that they could. It's very humbling to see the community come together not just for this project, but ... there's lending hands being extended everywhere."

The fund is supported by $150,000 in donations from the Ward & Brenda Morgan Donor Advised Fund, the Lincoln & Dorothy Deihl Advised Fund and the Mary Vanier Donor Advised Fund.

Organizers are seeking another $50,000 in gift card purchases by the community for the full match to happen.

In total, the effort has generated $200,000 when including $100,000 in gift cards that people purchased from businesses. One hundred percent of the money used to purchase gift cards will go directly to local businesses.

More than 100 businesses have been approved for the program and more than 160 people have submitted applications to receive assistance.

GMCF also is hosting a COVID-19 Recovery fund, located on its website, to provide grants to nonprofits supporting those affected by the pandemic.