The first item on the agenda of Monday’s Pottawatomie County Commission meeting was to take the temperature of everyone in the Sunflower Room at Westmoreland.

In fact, the temperature of all county employees is being taken and recorded daily as they arrive at work — a proactive effort to ward off any potential spread of infection by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The move is one of a number of steps taken by county officials in the wake of the infectious disease, said Administrator Chad Kinsley. That includes the following:

  • Only a handful of persons were allowed at Monday’s meeting and seating was spread out to meet CDC guidelines for “social distancing.” A number of county department heads and members of the public attended via Zoom teleconference.
  • Currently, only county employees deemed essential remain on duty full-time. Non-essential employees will work one-day-on, one-day-off for at least the next two weeks, but are receiving normal pay.
  • The county landfill remains open, but patrons are asked to remain in their vehicles at the entry scale. A drop box will be set up for the deposit of cash or checks only for loads meeting the $10 minimum, thus relieving employees from handling money or credit cards.
  • The county office building is manned but is temporarily closed to the public. Patrons are asked to conduct business online or to call a respective office for information.
  • The Noxious Weed and Public Works Buildings are also closed to the public, but some employees are on duty.
  • The Pott County Justice Center has “limited entry” through the west entrance. Courtrooms and the district court clerk’s office in the Justice Center has been closed to the public, as per an administrative order from the Kansas Supreme Court. The staff is on duty, however, and will answer questions by phone (785-457-3392) during regular working hours.
  • The Pott County Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Management and Health Department are all operating normally, Kinsley said.

On Saturday, the commission, acting as the Pott County Board of Health, issued an order prohibiting “all public or private mass gatherings” in the county; that is, any “planned or spontaneous public or private event or convening that will bring together ... 10 or more people in a confined or enclosed space at the same time.”

The order rescinded and revised an order issued the day before without commission approval.

“We had a little hiccup Friday with that document going out that wasn’t supposed to,” said Commissioner Greg Riat. “But I was really proud we got that corrected so quickly.”

The prohibition includes, but is not limited to, gatherings at auditoriums, theaters, movie theaters, museums, stadiums, arenas, conference rooms, meeting halls, exhibition centers, taverns, health and fitness centers, recreation centers and licensed pools.

The order, published on the county website (pottcounty.org), includes a number of exemptions and urges residents to follow guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control.

“These restrictions shall become effective immediately and will remain in force until rescinded or revised,” the order states.

The order and other county information relating to COVID-19 have been sent to all media outlets in the county.

As of Wednesday morning, there had been 126 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kansas, including 1 in Pott County. (The Kansas Department of Health and Environment changed Riley County’s lone case to Pottawatomie County after determining the man lives in the Pottawatomie County side of Manhattan.)

“I hope all these meetings have set up some type of battle plan for this situation,” said Commissioner Pat Weixelman. “Let’s just cross our fingers and hope we have a little better luck than New York.”