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Shawnee Co. Health Officer talks potential changes to Health Order



TOPEKA, Kan.- As COVID-19 trends improve in the Topeka area health officials are looking at how Shawnee County could safely return to normal life.

Touches of normalcy are returning to Shawnee County with agencies once again meeting in-person and schools considering returning to the classroom.

County Health Officer Dr. Erin Locke said she trusts organizations with their decisions.

“As I understand it, the [Shawnee County] commissioners and the schools are following trends closely following the scorecard and really have measures in place that when they see we’re in a certain position on the scorecard they will act a certain way and make certain decisions,” she said Tuesday.

“My understanding is they are following all mitigation recommendations that we have recommended from the Health Department.”

She said an incremental approach in loosening restrictions in the Shawnee Co. Health Order is the key tactic to give residents a bit of regular life while keeping them safe.

“We are taking small steps and then reevaluating,” she said.

“Because we didn’t see the rise [in COVID-19 cases following a loosening of restrictions last month] that means that we can continue to open up a little bit more cautiously reevaluate.”

The county’s progress could lead to the easing of some mass gathering recommendations in the health order.

“We’ve been monitoring and we are seeing promise trends continue in the community our intention is to make another modification that allows a little bit more activity in the community if you will and then we will monitor that for effect and make adjustments as needed,” she said.

“In particular we plan to allow individuals to submit a plan to us for review and so will be looking at what are the sizes of the mass gatherings and how can we safely hold and have are people come together for events and so that will be the largest area that we’re reviewing.”

President Joe Biden has recommended that counties not ease up because of new foreign strains of COVID-19 appearing in the US however, Locke said each possible change is made with state and federal guidance in mind.

“We are taking into account guidance from federal and state was saying,” she said.

“We need to be preparing for the future and so it is it it is a balancing of how do we respond to where we are right now and how do we could be if we’re not careful.”

Locke said there is no evidence of any foreign strains of the virus in Shawnee County.

She credits the community’s efforts for helping improve the situation.

“I really appreciate everything that that everything everyone has done for this pandemic so far,” she said.

“I would like them to know that we see hope with a vaccine but we need to continue to take those medication measures of the social distancing wearing the mask following the recommendations and I doing that we will get to the place where we all want to be.”

Locke said the pandemic plays a role in the health department’s other initiatives such as their community health needs assessment for this year.