The Saline County public health order limiting mass gatherings and restricting hours of operation for certain businesses which was set to expire this Sunday will renew for 28 days.
According to the Saline County Health Department, this extension will end at 11:59 p.m. on February 21, 2021.
“We understand that this places a hardship upon our businesses and families,” acknowledged Jason Tiller, Salina County Public Health Officer. “We didn’t see the post-holiday surge in numbers we were expecting, which gave us some hope that we might catch a glimpse of a return to normalcy in our future.”
At the county commission meeting this week, Tiller was cautiously hopeful that we would be able to see the order expire. Unfortunately, that sight is another 28 days further from view. Local public health experts weighed in on the decision and advised that allowing the order to expire at this time would be detrimental to public health in Saline County.
Those 28 days represent two infection cycles and will allow officials to glean a more accurate picture of where Saline County is heading in terms of infection numbers. For the moment, it appears the data is trending in the right direction; however, more time is necessary to confirm that Saline County is indeed experiencing a sustained downward trend. Officials are optimistic that with the number of people being vaccinated against the deadly virus alongside the public’s increasing use of proven methods like handwashing, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing, those numbers will continue to fall.
That optimism comes with a full dose of trepidation, however. While Saline County is currently seeing decreased hospitalizations compared to the two previous months, the number of people testing positive in the first 20 days of January is equivalent to those seen in the first 20 days of November – prior to the first public health order being issued. Evidence of variants are showing up more and more in the United States – as close as Colorado. Unfortunately, vaccine deliveries to Saline County continue to be unreliable and inconsistent. Information and guidance trickling in from the State and National government is often vague and ambiguous.
“We are deeply concerned about the effects of this pandemic on public health and the local economy,” explained Tiller. “This decision weighs the effects of our policy on both fronts. As February 21 draws near, we will review the information as it stands at that time and determine if another extension is necessary.”
A recent survey published by the Health Department saw that 60.1 percent of respondents said that they are “very concerned” about the spread of the virus and 49.7 percent said they are “very concerned” about the implications of COVID-19 on the local economy and 45.4 percent say they feel the current measures to prevent the virus from spreading are too relaxed.
“We will continue to look at how our policies effect the community and the quality of life of those around us,” said Tiller. “I am so proud of my staff and our community partners who are doing an outstanding job serving our public while working through this pandemic. We appreciate the public’s continued patience and commitment to recommended practices.”