Local businesses forced to make tough choices when exposed to coronavirus

Local News

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (KSNT) – As coronavirus continues to spread, local businesses are forced to make plans to keep their workers and their customers safe. The decisions they make have an impact on community safety too.

This week Loving Arms Childcare and Preschool in Junction City had to make a tough choice when they realized they might have been exposed to the virus.

After three months of being closed, CEO Tyrone Burks said they opened back up in June.

“We had been gone for a couple of months, and they were itching to come back, we were itching to come back,” Burks said.

Just one week after reopening, they got bad news.

“Early Monday morning we received word that one of our parents had tested positive for COVID-19,” Burks said.

Founder LaFarris Risby said it was nerve wracking for the team at Loving Arms, which looks after dozens of children in the community.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my god, what’s going to happen with my babies?’ So I immediately got into action and started calling around. I was on the phone yesterday anywhere from 9:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the afternoon trying to get all the pertinent information,” Risby said.

The Kansas Health Department and the Geary County Health Department told them they should call if anyone started showing symptoms, but the rest was up to them.

“My whole thing was to be proactive. KDHE and the health department is not telling you to shut down, but you’ve got to think you have children, other team members have children. You have families. You’re going to other businesses,” Risby said. “Are you your brothers keeper? Yes, you are. You have to be proactive and think about everyone else you might affect.”

They decided to shut down immediately and get everyone who works there tested.

“It was kind of like ordering McDonald’s in a way. You drive through, you roll down your window, they get you real quick and then you drive off,” Burks said.

The choice to close their doors again was not quite as painless, but they say they know it was the right one.

“You’ve still got staff you’ve got to pay. You still got cleaning of the building if that has to happen. You still have parents that you have to reimburse. You still have all these things going on, but you still have COVID-19 going on,” Risby said. “You outweigh life or the money. It’s called life, I love living.”

Loving Arms is planning to reopen next week, once all of its staff has been tested and cleared. If anyone does test positive, they’re going to get professional cleaners to come into the building to disinfect it.

Geary County’s Emergency Management Director Garry Berges said his team offers guidance, but for the most part they leave it up to businesses to decide how to deal with exposure to the virus.

“The health department, if they determine that there is an outbreak inside that business they will work with them, but it will be up to primarily that business,” Berges said.

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