COVID-19 regulations

New COVID-19 restrictions are on the way for much of the Kansas City metro in response to rapid, uncontrolled spread of the virus.

OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- New COVID-19 restrictions are on the way for much of the Kansas City metro in response to the rapid and uncontrolled spread of the virus.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas will make an announcement Monday, his office confirmed.

A new public health order in Johnson County, KS., begins at midnight Monday.

Part of the new order in Johnson County requires restaurants and bars to close at midnight instead of 2 a.m.

Like all bars and restaurants across the nation, The Other Place in Overland Park is struggling.

“The last couple months have been decent but nothing like they were pre-COVID, pre-March 16th. We’re still trying to catch up from that,” The Other Place General Manager Clayton Prestwood said.

Initial suggestions among the county were to have restaurants and businesses close at 10 p.m.

Prestwood said that would have been devastating.

He sees the midnight closing time as a compromise on the county’s party.

“It’s better than closing us down,” he said.

Johnson County has had 19,485 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday morning, an increase of 662 since Nov. 13.

The upwards trend has public health officials and hospital systems alarmed.

Prestwood agrees the numbers are concerning, but does not believe hindering his business will help slow the spread.

“I don’t know what midnight does or 10 p.m. does to stop the virus spread, because it’s just a time,” he said.

Emergency room physician for St. Luke’s Hospital Dr. Marc Larson isn’t so sure the new Johnson County public health order will help too much either.

“I think it sounds like it’s an attempt to do something without really doing anything. To be honest,” Dr. Larson said.

The public health order requires social distancing in all indoor and outdoor public spaces, except homes, private offices, and workplaces not open to visitors. Also exempt are businesses that require staff to be in close contact with others, like barber shops, nail salons and tattoo parlors.

Mass gatherings are limited to 50 people, or 50 percent fire code capacity.

Schools and religious organizations are exempt, in addition to restaurants, bars, gyms, retail stores and funeral services.

“While I applaud the fact that something is being done, I think we need to go further,” Dr. Larson said. “A gathering of 49 is just as dangerous as a gathering of 51. Especially if it’s inside. So I think it’s an attempt to do something without angering the base of people who are adamant about not doing it.”

Larson compared the hospital system to a bathtub. Incoming patients are water from the faucet, and the drain is the discharge of patients. He says the tub is always teetering at full.

“And right now, every time we have an outbreak at a funeral, or a nursing home, or a wedding, or a church service, we’re adding buckets and buckets of water to that bathtub. We can’t continue to have that influx of normal patients with this added buckets of water into our system,” he said.

Chief medical officers from all over the Kansas City metro have been preaching for months that the community needs to do more to slow the spread of the virus. They recommend wearing a mask in public, staying home if you can and washing hands.

“But it seems to be falling on deaf ears,” Larson said.

St. Luke’s is running close to capacity and is seeing an increase in transfer requests from the region and even out of state, all of this at a time when their staffing is thin.

“Our staffing is limited, not necessarily because of COVID exposures in the hospital, but because of the rampant community spread of the disease,” he said.

Larson understands that further restrictions would hurt small businesses.

He said he hopes they can get stimulus relief soon, but getting the pandemic under control should be the priority.

“I think that the medical community would be all in agreement that we need to do what we can to stop the spread of the disease. Obviously nobody wants to see an entire lockdown, but we also understand that we need to do what’s right, even if it’s hard,” he said.

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