BY MAKENNA ALLEN AND CORIE LYNN
Communities across the United States are taking preventative measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Though Hays may be starting to see measures taken to protect the health of the community, other cities in the region, such as Denver and Kansas City, have implemented more extreme steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
DENVER — As of Sunday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Colorado had risen to nearly 600. According to the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center, the state has recorded six deaths as a result of the virus that has been confirmed in 29 of the state’s counties.
Though the numbers are rising, Gov. Jared Polis has yet to officially declare a “shelter-in-place” order.
Nevertheless, Polis has taken many measures similar to those mandated by a shelter-in-place order in an attempt to keep Coloradans at home. As of Thursday, Polis halted elective surgeries. Restaurants and bars shut down in a prior order and will remain closed until April 30. He further expanded the reach of this order by closing all hair and nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors and massage parlors.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock confirmed that he could issue a shelter-in-place order for the city itself. However, the state government is working to create a plan that would be consistent across all of Colorado.
One county in Colorado has broken this pattern thus far. On March 18, San Miguel County’s shelter-in-place order took effect. The order will last until April 3. In the five towns located in the county, nonessential businesses will be closed and all visitors to the mountain region must return home. Residents are allowed to leave their homes only for essential business.
Under this order, essential businesses include: stores related to food production and sale, healthcare facilities, banks, internet providers, educational institutions, gas stations, auto shops, media companies, laundromats, transportation providers and shelters.
The economic impact of closing businesses ranging from bars and restaurants to hotels and short-term rentals could be massive. According to an article by Colorado Public Radio, this very economic impact is one of the reasons Polis has held off on issuing a statewide shelter-in-place.
Essentially, Colorado remains under an unofficial “shelter-in-place” in which many non-essential businesses have already been closed. For Polis, the issue has become a balancing act of preventing the spread of the virus while attempting to preserve the state’s economy.
Update: Monday afternoon, Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, issued a mandatory stay-at-home order that will take effect March 24, at 5:00 p.m. and will remain in place until April 10. The order is similar to the one in Kansas City in that many of the same restrictions apply by prohibiting citizens from leaving their homes for non-essential activities.
The issue in Denver originally included liquor stores and recreational marijuana shops as non-essential businesses to be closed. However, when lines spanning city blocks began to form outside these stores, the ordinance was adapted to include such businesses as essential. Measures must be taken, however, to ensure that individuals remain at least six feet apart while shopping.
Hancock believes that it will not be long until other Colorado metropolitan areas adopt similar ordinances.
On Saturday evening, Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Quinton Lucas announced that beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, a “Stay at Home Order” would go into effect for Kansas City, Mo. Other county officials in Jackson County, Mo., Johnson County, Kan., Leavenworth County, Kan., Douglas County, Kan., Atchison County, Kan., Donaphin County, Kan., Miami County, Kan., Lyon and Wyandotte County, Kan., have instituted similar precautionary measures.
The “Core Four” of the Kansas City Metro, Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties and Kansas City, Mo., have seen a total of 67 cases of COVID-19. Between the three counties, three of these cases have been fatal. Kansas on the whole has seen a total of 82 cases, while Missouri has seen 106, many of which are in the city and county of St. Louis.
With this in mind, the KC Core Four are making an effort to prevent the further spread of the illness by issuing “Stay at Home Orders,” which have the same effect as city ordinances. These orders will be in effect until April 24. After these 30 days, the situation will be re-evaluated and, as officials deem necessary, the order either lifted or extended.
The full order for KCMO is available online and outlines who and what businesses are exempt from the order. According to the document, residents must stay home unless they are part of essential businesses or activities, or maintaining minimal operations for their business.
The document includes healthcare professions, grocery stores, media services and financial institutions in its list of essential businesses. While the full list of exemptions is available on the document, “essential” refers to healthcare and infrastructure for the Kansas City area. All other businesses will be subject to fine for remaining open.
This is not to say KC residents are prevented from leaving their homes. While the order is in effect, people are still able to take walks, go on bike rides, buy groceries and pick up medications as needed, provided they continue to social distance during these times.
At present, enforcement of the order focuses on citizens’ self-policing rather than governments requiring them to carry identification or proof of essential activities while traveling through the area. Businesses, however, found in violation of the order will face fines and penalties.
The goal of the “Stay at Home Orders” is not to bring KC to a halt. Those who can work from home will work from home. Those who need to check on neighbors or purchase essential items can continue do so. Citizens are still able to move about their towns. All of this is possible as long as people continue to practice social distancing.
During a press conference, Lucas stated that while people are able to continue to live, it was important for the Kansas City community on both sides of the state line to slow down to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.