Shawnee County leaders look at loosening COVID restrictions

Coronavirus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – States across the country are loosening COVID-19 restrictions, but health officials warn it may be too soon with new variants of the virus popping up around the world.

Shawnee County has dropped down to the “moderate” level of COVID transmission, now scoring a 6 out of 24 on the scorecard used to track how severe the spread is locally.

County Commissioner Kevin Cook said Thursday because case numbers are going down, the commission will look at making changes to the current health order next week.

“Looking at changing any restrictions as that is part of our discussion as we go down in levels, we would have that increase in changing those restrictions,” Cook said.

A move state officials in Texas, Mississippi, and Florida put into action this week already, leaving mixed reactions from Kansas residents.

“I don’t think that’s very smart,” said Kansan Paul Tipton.

Texas is now 100% open with no COVID restrictions at all, leaving Tipton worried the trend might make its way to Kansas.

“I had a cousin die from that a few weeks ago down in Texas and he was younger than me,” he said.

Texas, Mississippi, and Florida are without mask mandates as well.

“I’m glad I don’t live in Texas or Florida,” said Susan Ruder, another Kansas resident.

Ruder said she feels much safer living in Kansas where there’s still a mask mandate and thinks states lifting such restrictions is premature.

“I know we’re all so ready to get back to life as usual,” Ruder said. “It’s been a year, but the new variant strains are pretty scary and we don’t know how they’re going to impact us.”

Kansas has seen the United Kingdom variant in at least two counties, Ellis and Sedgwick, which leaders at the health department say is a reason for caution.

Others like Mike Mitchell think health officials should make their decisions based on the trends.

“If it continues to go downhill, they ought to slowly ease the restrictions,” Mitchell said. “But I think they need to do what’s going to protect the people the most.”

Commissioner Cook didn’t say specifically what restrictions they were potentially looking at lifting, but that they’d start discussions on Monday, March 8.

The Shawnee County Commission meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday back at the county courthouse.

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