Last Updated on April 27, 2020
Officials in Sedgwick County, the largest county in the state of Kansas, say that coronavirus-induced lockdown restrictions will not be fully lifted until new cases are “minimal” and a vaccine is available for distribution.
The Sedgwick County Commission has prepared a four stage plan for slowly scaling back restrictions after Governor Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home directive expires on May 3.
According to Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne, restrictions on local businesses will not be removed until officials decide that the county has entered “Phase 4,” which requires a vaccine to have been developed.
Officials also have the power to make the county return to the restrictions of the previous phase at any time.
Byrne pointed out that the county is in Phase 1 of the health department’s proposed plan — working to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the stay-at-home order and limiting public gatherings to 10 or less. In order to move to Phase 2, she said we would need a 14-day window of decreased viral activity.
Byrne advised that restrictions would be loosened on businesses in Phase 2 but other restrictions would continue to reduce exposure to the elderly and vulnerable populations. More restrictions would be lifted in Phase 3 but a number would remain in place to “mitigate unnecessary risk,” such as limited gathering size.
Byrne said the threshold for returning to the previous phase would be a sustained rise in new cases over five days.
“It’s not just that we go to Phase 1 and 2, 3, 4. We’re going to be closely monitoring as we loosen up restrictions to monitor what’s occurring and if we need to move back to the previous stage to protect our community then we’ll move back to the previous stage.
Byrne said the county could only return to its “new normal,” Phase 4, once a vaccine to COVID-19 has been developed.
Estimates for when a coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine will be available have ranged from 12-18 months to several years, which means many small businesses in Sedgwick County may never have the ability to reopen.