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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 05/21/2020

Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode hear from Johnson County public health officials. They'll talk about life in Phase 2 starting May 22nd. Which businesses are reopening and which will have to wait a little longer. Also, find out about additional COVID-19 testing availability, including three appointment-based testing for the general public. And as Memorial Day weekend approaches, a popular time for pools, what can we expect this year during a pandemic?

Announcer [00:00:24] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas. JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed [00:00:38] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County, resident and employee of Johnson County government. On Monday, May 18th, Johnson County joined the rest of the state, entering Phase 1.5 of the governor's plan to reopen Kansas. Then this week, the governor announced the state is ready to move on to Phase 2 May 22nd, with some modifications in this phase. Mass gatherings of more than 15 are prohibited, but more businesses are reopening with some changes in normal operations. Here to talk more about that is Johnson County local health officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:01:12] So starting on May the 22nd, the governors Phase 2 will start. The biggest difference across all activities and businesses now is that now groups of up to 15 will be allowed still maintaining 6 foot of distance between them. The aim behind this still is this, that those groups should be people who reside together. So as far as we're aware, as far as I'm aware, we're not still encouraging people from different households to start mixing in close proximity unless they've been in close proximity already. So this would be groups, for instance, where the children were playing together or the families were mixing together, possibly in extended families. Prior to this, there is no restriction for exactly how those groups of 15 mix together. And the one way of thinking about it is that if you are mixing in a group of 15, this should be people that you're having daily regular contact with, not using this as an opportunity to start mixing socially or getting physically close to people that you haven't had any contact with during the time of the of the close stay at home orders. So then moving on to talking about what is different and what is possible, the tanning salons, hair salons, tattoo parlors, et cetera, that have been open previously. No change from phase 1.5. Those will continue in Phase 2. The only restrictions are that there should be still only appointments that are made. They should still only be serving people who come in via appointment or online. Check in for now for gyms and fitness centers. Small groups of people and in classes will be allowed to participate together, but still should continue to maintain the six foot by distancing rules for social distancing. Just like everything else, community centers can open now again. But those groups that are in there need to be maintaining all of the social distancing rules, just as we have talked about before. Starting now in Phase 2, indoor leisure spaces will be open again. This will include movie theaters, trampoline parks, bowling alleys and the like. Again, the same rules applying that groups that go together should be less than fifteen and be able to maintain six foot of distance apart from others. Organized sporting activities can now start up again. Again, there need to be happening in those in any kind of sports practices or team events. Those participating in it need to be able to stay six feet separated from the other people who are in there. There are some types of team sports that are very difficult to be able to do with with social distancing, and those kind of considerations need to be made by those who are organizing those team sports or practices. Again, we strongly encourage the use of social distancing, meaning keeping six feet apart from those with whom you do not reside at all times.

Theresa Freed [00:04:58] And we know masks are helpful at stopping the spread of COVID-19. Can you talk about why they're still necessary as we gradually reopen the county?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:05:06] The governor's order does not specify any requirement for using masks. In this phase, having said that, we still strongly recommend the use of masks or face coverings in any situation where you cannot guarantee that you can maintain 6 foot of distance from other people. This would happen in most indoor spaces, like going to a grocery store or a retail store where it's possible that you're going to be less than 6 foot from another person, maybe even for a longer period of time than would be recommended if everyone who is in that space is wearing a mask. This will reduce the amount of transmission because remember, the mask is reducing transmission from you to other people. So if everyone's wearing that, then that will be a positive thing. However, we want to emphasize that we are not requiring the use of masks because the state reopening ordered by the governor also does not require the use of masks.

Theresa Freed [00:06:09] So where does that leave us? What business is still closed in Phase 2?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:06:12] There are still a few things that cannot open during Phase 2. Those include bars, nightclubs and swimming pools. Those will be other than backyard swimming pools. Those will need to wait until we get to Phase 3. The governor and her team are still closely monitoring the metrics, looking for transmission to get better in Kansas vs. get worse. As long as we continue over a two week period of time to see improvements in the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to move forward. The current target date, the earliest of which we'd moved to Phase 3 is June the 8th.

Theresa Freed [00:06:58] And of course, we're approaching Memorial Day weekend, but 2020 is not a typical year. Given the pandemic, how will this holiday look different?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:07:06] As far as travel and backyard parties, first, let's talk about travel to other neighboring states. There have been restrictions on traveling to other states in terms of what happens when you return from that state. Kansans until recently, after returning from certain states, have had to participate in a 14-day quarantine period. There are some states for which this is still required. Those include Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. And as well, of course, still international travel or travel on a cruise or boat. Most of the states from which after traveling, you would need to participate in quarantine. You would need to get to probably by flying to them. The one that's the closest to us here that you could re reach by car is probably Illinois over Memorial Day. Backyard parties will be a possibility. However, as we've said before, the groups of people that are in that backyard party should be less than 15, probably should be people who with whom you are either residing or on a daily basis having close interaction beyond that group. Everyone should be more than six feet apart if you have different family groups coming together for that party. Those family groups could stay together in the party, but should maintain 6 foot of distance from other people when you're having that party. You want to have plenty of cleaning supplies available hand sanitizer if people need it. Soap and water to do of hand-washing prior to eating. Avoid communal punch bowls. Avoid buffet lines or anything where everybody's going to be touching the food or touching the serving utensils as they go through a line. Much better to have one person doing the serving for everybody who knows how to practice good hand hygiene and is able to do that safely. Everybody should be touching only their only own plates and utensils if possible. Use. Throw away paper plates and plastic utensils.

Theresa Freed [00:09:33] The governor is pushing back the reopening of pools to Phase 3, which will be no sooner than June 8. With guidance about pools. We have with us Steve Vogelsang with the Department of Health and Environment. He's been busy addressing questions on this topic.

Steve Vogelsang [00:09:46] So what that means for the swimming pools is there will be no Memorial Day weekend opening for pools that use lifeguards. It is important for everyone to understand that they cannot be social distancing guards. They have a lot of responsibility to look after the people that are in the water and that is their entire job when they're up on the guard stand or in their position all around the pool. They are to be lifeguards only if someone is going to be checking for social distancing. That has to be someone completely separate from the guards. If you decide to keep the pool closed, it must be maintained in a sanitary condition. We will require that the cover be placed back on the pool and the gate locked, and that the chemicals in the pool have to be maintained to prevent the pool from turning green with algae or supporting insect growth, particularly mosquito infestation in the pool water. It is very important to make sure that any furniture and all touchable surfaces at your pool are cleaned and sanitized. Along with this, I've had several questions about can we keep the bathrooms closed? And the answer to that is absolutely no. If there are bathrooms available, they have to be open for the people.

Theresa Freed [00:11:13] And next, another important topic as we discuss the latest on the county's efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic -- testing. This week, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment started offering appointment-based testing to the general public. The first day on Monday, May 18th, 46 people took advantage of that service. Now with more on this and the county's testing plan, we have Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola.

Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:11:37] It is one of the multiple components of our testing program as we roll things back and there is increased activity. And we expect transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 to increase. Our primary tool for containing increased transmission is to quickly identify those who are infected and their contacts and contain them. So testing is going to be broad. This is one of those components. The other components are testing that are ongoing in our long term care facilities. Some are proactive. Some are reactive. We have also planning a community-wide testing through a drive through next week. But the overall goal is to just present multiple opportunities for different groups of people to be tested. The appointment-based testing is for people with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19. If you have those symptoms that I listed like the cough or the fever, go ahead and set up an appointment. You will be tested. Of course, your first line of approach is to reach out to your primary care physician. When the option is not there. Set up an appointment. I'll be very happy to test you. The idea again behind that is we want to test as many people as possible and see if you have the symptoms. It is possible that you have been affected and we want to test and talk to you about your contacts and use our public health intervention to quickly contain the spread of the virus in our community.

Theresa Freed [00:13:23] To get much more including data and also information about which businesses are reopening and which phases visit us at jocogov.org/coronavirus.

Announcer [00:13:32] You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.