Lyon County Public Health Officer Renee Hively issued a stay-at-home order for all county residents during a Facebook live press conference Wednesday morning.
The order begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning and will remain in effect through April 25, unless amended sooner, superseded or rescinded.
"A stay-at-home order was signed by me and the county commissioners yesterday," Hively said. "What does this mean to you? It means currently all individuals living in Lyon County, Kansas, are ordered to stay-at-home or at their place of residence, unless they are going for reasons of essential activities."
During this time, residents who work for essential businesses are permitted to go to and from work. Residents are also able to leave their homes to obtain groceries, medications or other necessary supplies for their homes or business. They are permitted to receive medical care and emergency services.
"We cannot stress enough that the safest place for you and your loved ones is at home," Jennifer Millbern, environmental health director and public health services director at Flint Hills Community Health Center, said.
Residents are also able to participate in outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running and biking, so long as they are observing social distancing.
"You may go to public parks and outdoor open recreation areas, however, playgrounds increase the spread of COVID-19 disease and are therefore closed," Millbern said.
Public gatherings such as weddings and funerals are prohibited at this time.
Millbern said people may also leave their homes to care for family members, friends or pets that live in another household.
"All businesses that remain open must comply with the social distancing requirements defined in the order," she said. "All businesses are expected to maintain 6-foot social distancing at all times for both employees and customers. This includes when any customers are standing in line."
Public health officials encourage businesses to offer separate operating hours for the elderly and vulnerable customers.
Places of public amusement are to be closed to the public for the duration of the order. Food may continue to be served for consumption off-premises by means of in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-thru or curb-side pickup.
Lyon County Emergency Manager Jarrod Fell said the order was necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 within the community.
"Saying that there's only two cases here — that's just two documented positive cases," Fell told The Emporia Gazette in a phone interview after the conference. "I think that, realistically, due to the criteria to be tested and the shortage of testing supplies, I think we can safely say there are more cases than that in our area. Knowing that and the history of the disease spread and what that looks like in other places, the intent of this is for people to practice social distancing, stay-at-home and limit unnecessary travel."
Fell said he wanted to thank the community for efforts so far in mitigating the spread of the disease. He said the intent of the order is not to instill panic or fear, but the importance of reducing the impact on the community's health care system overrides any short-term inconveniences the stay-at-home order may cause.
"If the disease spreads to a level in the community that it overwhelms our health care system, people will not be able to get health care," he said. "That would mean people losing their lives. This disease has already taken a lot of people's lives in the United States. We believe our community is really, truly engaging in social distancing, though there are those that are not. It is serious and the lives affected may be somebody you know. Your actions could be saving lives. We are concerned about the economic impacts on the community, but those economic impacts do not outweigh the value of a life."
For more information on local response to COVID-19 visit www.flinthillshealth.org/covid-19.