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Parks and Rec Director lays out tentative re-opening plan

The Hiawatha City Commission addressed summer recreation at Monday night’s regular meeting.

Stacy Jasper, Hiawatha’s Director of Parks and Recreation, spoke to the commission on Monday, and was approved to begin circulating the city’s plan for opening recreation facilities and beginning summer programs. Jasper did warn that the plans are merely tentative and meant to give an outline, but that the fluidity of the situation has not changed and that alterations could happen at any time.

The first phase of re-opening is planned for May 19. Jasper said that at the point, the City plans to open parks, playgrounds, ball fields and batting cages to the public. That said, Jasper noted that the city has no intention of allowing sports teams to begin practices at this time. Gatherings at this point should be held to 30 or less.

The next phase will begin on June 1. At this point, Jasper plans to open the Fisher Center to gatherings under the generally-allowed number of 50. Sports teams will also be allowed to begin practicing on this date should no further delays arise.

On June 15, Jasper hopes to allow games at Bruning and Noble Parks, and also to open the Hiawatha Aquatic Park.

Mayor Collins noted that the commission would like to wait until the next meeting to formally agree to the schedule, but ceded that allowing leagues and teams a preview of the schedule would be fine in order to allow them time to plan.

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City announces wastewater testing reveals COVID-19 - drinking water is not affected

The City of Hiawatha issued a press release on Wednesday announcing that COVID-19 coronavirus was detected in the wastewater systems of Hiawatha.

This does not affect the drinking water, city officials say.

On April 24, the University of Kansas School of Engineering and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) collected samples from 12 wastewater plants, one of which was the City of Hiawatha’s, to determine if the COVID-19 virus can be detected in the wastewater systems of local communities.

“We have been informed the sample of influent wastewater (wastewater entering our sewer plant) tested positive for COVID-19,” according to the press release from City Administrator Mike Nichols.

“We have not been provided any estimate based on the test of how many positive cases they believe there were at the time of the test but, it’s safe to say COVID-19 has been present within the boundaries of the Hiawatha wastewater collection system.”

In a follow-up phone interview, Nichols said he has reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to determine what amount of COVID would have to be present to show up in the testing considering dilution with the water.

“These tests results were from two weeks ago and we still don’t have an identified case in the city that we have been notified of,” he said, noting there was one positive case in Brown County but the residence of that patient is unknown — it is just not within the city of Hiawatha. “It’s hard to determine where it came from, it could have been someone passing through town, stopped at the gas station.”

Nichols said the research group has not performed any follow up testing as of the date of this press release.

“Now that we know COVID-19 has been present in our community but, no positive cases have been identified through testing, we are hopeful the precautions we have all been taking as a community have been helping to deter the spread of COVID-19,” Nichols said.

On Sunday, the Multi-County Health Department verified one positive case of COVID-19 in the county, stating the person was in isolation at home at that time and following the advice of health officials. The identity or location of where the patient lives in the county cannot be divulged due to confidentiality.

The City of Hiawatha just announced it’s plan to reopen based on the governor’s phase plan (see other story in Friday’s issue) and is strongly encouraging people to continue taking precautions and respect the social distancing guidelines as recommended by KDHE and the CDC. The city will continue updating as more information becomes available.

Here is a news clip about the testing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt4r4w3QaB4


Reliable, updated information on COVID-19 can be found on these websites:

STATE: http://www.covid.ks.gov

KDHE: http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/index.htm

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

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Brown County sees first corona case

Brown County saw its first positive COVID-19 coronavirus case on Sunday, according to a press release from the NEK Multi-County Health Department.

According to the press release, issued Sunday evening, the individual is in isolation and following the recommendations of health officials.

“The Brown County Health Department has begun to work on identifying contacts of the individual,” according to the news release from Chastity Schumann, Brown County Health Officer. “We continue to recommend that persons that have symptoms associated with a respiratory illness stay home and CALL your medical provider if your symptoms require medical attention and make sure you or your medical provider notify the Brown County Health Department if COVID 19 testing is doen or if you are advised to quarantine.”

The NEK Multi-County Health Department officials say its office continues to collaborate with health care providers in the community.

As of Sunday morning, there were 5,030 positive cases in Kansas and 134 deaths throughout 80 counties. This did not include the case for Brown County announced that evening.

For accurate COVID-1 information, please go to:

Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) COVID-19: www.govstatus.egov.com/coronavirus

Center for Disease Control (CDC) www.cdc.gov/coronavirus2019-nCoV/index.html

NEK Multi-County Health Department Brown: www.nekmulticounty.org.

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Baccalaureate and graduation plans in the works for Hiawatha seniors

Baccalaureate services and graduation plans are in the works for Hiawatha seniors, but could have a different look.

Many out of school since the beginning of March, seniors all across the country have missed out on many traditional parts of their last few months of high school, including prom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School officials, community members and parents all across the nation are trying to make graduation happen — in some form or another.

That includes in Hiawatha.

Superintendent of Schools Lonnie Moser said discussions have been happening concerning graduation services and just this week he and high school administrators participated in a Zoom conference with parents to get some opinions on what they and students want.

Moser said the general consensus is leaning toward postponing the traditional graduation until such a time that it’s safe to do so and meets the state guidelines. Currently, under the governor’s four-phase reopening plan, mass gatherings of that magnitude won’t be allowed until the “phase-out” period beyond June 15. Phase 3 allows mass gatherings of up to 90 people — and graduation audiences bring in the hundreds.

Moser said school administrators had worked on a plan for a non-traditional graduation to be held that same date, where only students and families would be recognized — flowing through the gym as individual groups, without any audience. Once a student received a diploma, he/she would exit the gym with family so another student and family could proceed. Each would be photographed receiving a diploma, which could have come from a school official, or even a family member, Moser said.

It was either this type of non-traditional service, or postpone. The majority of the senior class parents and students asked for a postponement, however Moser said they have a small window to accomplish this before some students leave for trade schools or military.

He said, for now, the district has opted to postpone the graduation in hopes of having a full traditional service but has not set a date. He said that would happen at Monday night’s School Board meeting.

“We have to follow the state guidelines and if those don’t allow us to have a traditional service, then we do have a back-up plan,” Moser said.

Baccalaureate services — traditionally planned by the Hiawatha Ministerial Alliance — are moving forward on Wednesday, May 13, but in a non-traditional way.

Participating ministers are submitting their presentations, along with music selections to KNZA and these will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on May 13 at 103.9 in an efffort to recognize seniors. It will also be aired later on Rainbow and avalable on YouTube.

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Brown County takes step to reopen county in accordance with governor's orders

The Brown County Commission met in a special session Friday morning and their regular session Monday morning to take steps in reopening the county in accordance with the governor’s 4-phase plan she released last Thursday night.

According to the governor’s plan, Phase 1 went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and will last through May 18 and will allow the reopening of some non-essential businesses in accordance with social distancing guidelines of keeping individuals 6 feet apart. Mass gatherings are still restricted, as are sports gatherings, graduations and more. In addition, due to the close in-person contact, salons won’t be allowed to open until Phase 2, which begins March 18.

County Commissioners met with Chastity Schumann, Multi-County Health Department director and county health officer; Don Pounds, county emergency preparedness coordinator and Kevin Hill, county attorney via a Zoom conference which was aired on the county’s Facebook page Friday morning and again on Monday.

Schumann updated the county on testing and cases — informing the commissioners Monday morning there was one positive case confirmed Sunday.

Schumann also informed the commissioners they were allowed to be more restrictive than the governor, but not more lenient on their orders for the county. She also made recommendations about food service businesses to not provide self-serve drinks and food.

The commission voted to reopen the county, in accordance with the governor’s Phase 1 plan, which can be found on the state website. However, the commissioners mandated that any restaurant wishing to resume dine-in service shall complete an application including a floor-plan showing how adequate social distancing of 6 feet between tables and dining groups will be maintained. This application is available on the Brown County website at www.brcoks.org and shall be submitted to Brown County emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Don Pounds at bremc@brcoks.org. Pounds will attempt to respond and provide written approval or denial of the request within 24 hours.

On Monday, Pounds said he had received two applications so far and had been contacted by another restaurant within the county. Some businesses may choose to offer only curbside and take-out during this phase for safety precaution.

“They are really receptive to what we are trying to do,” Pounds said.

In addition, self-service beverages and buffets shall remain prohibited at all restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and other similar businesses providing these services in Brown County. Pre-packaged meals and utensils can continue to be served.

The county’s mandates became effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning.

In addition, the commissioners addressed whether to reopen the courthouse to the public. Staff has continued to work from home to provide services through email, and the commission voted Thursday to keep with this procedure for the next two weeks at least. On Monday, the commission established specific hours starting May 19 — the courthouse will be closed to the public on Mondays and open from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday by appointment only.

This would give Pounds time to order adequate disinfecting supplies and for department heads to come up with a plan on how to take care of customers and bring back staff in accordance with the governor’s guidelines. In addition, the commission voted to extend the credit on Pounds’ credit card from $5,000 to $15,000 to allow him to purchase those supplies. He told the commissioners that some companies are requiring 50 percent down and that supplies are in high demand. Pound said he is not ordering from companies requiring 100 percent down as he is concerned about whether supplies will arrive.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas,” is available in full at www.covid.ks.gov, in addition to industry-specific guidance for Kansas businesses.