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WARRENSBURG — Johnson County Community Health Services spoke with the Johnson County Commission, representatives of various Johnson County organizations and community members to discuss the JCCHS' draft of a potential stay-at-home order via teleconference call on Tuesday morning, March 31.

JCCHS Administrator Mary Thaut stated a draft of the potential stay-at-home order will be discussed at a public JCCHS Board meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Thaut said essential businesses and personnel such as health care operations, grocery stores, government functions, food processing, media, gas stations, hotels, electricians, rail systems and hardware supply stores would remain open under the potential stay-at-home order.

"People still need to be able to have access to grocery stores, they're still going to have issues with their homes and need maintenance," Thaut said.

Thaut stated she is recommending to the board a 30-day length for the order, lasting from Wednesday, April 1, to April 30.

The ending date can be extended if the JCCHS board agrees to do so.

When asked if the potential stay-at-home order would include a curfew, Thaut stated one was not currently included in the draft.

Thaut also said the previously issued public health emergency order could be modified if the JCCHS board decides changes to the order are needed.

Following a discussion with those in the call, the Johnson County Commission voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of JCCHS in the decision it makes at its Tuesday afternoon board meeting.

Western Missouri Medical Center CEO/President Darinda Dick, Johnson County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Armstrong and Emergency Medical Services Chief Shane Lockard expressed their support of a potential stay-at-home order.

Dick said that as WMMC continues to see an increase in COVID-19 patients, it is important to limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible to prevent the hospital from becoming overwhelmed as staff and resources are limited and WMMC is faced with the financial burden of finding staff and resources from alternative methods.

"What we're doing today is going to affect our hospital in two to three weeks," Dick said. "We're handling it fine, but the point of the stay-at-home order is to speak to as many people as possible. Social distancing isn't working; we've all noticed. The hope, and the prayer, is that when we say, 'Stay at home,' it will speak to more people. We have to slow it down so that we don't get overwhelmed."

Dick also said that in addition to WMMC itself becoming overwhelmed, other hospitals could be overwhelmed and medical transfers may not be an option.

Armstrong said he agreed with Dick and said he has seen a steady increase in cases in the county.

"We need to flatten that curve and this is one of the tools that we can utilize to do it," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he believes COVID-19 has been community spread in Johnson County and that there could be more cases than are confirmed as some people with the virus may not know it and have not been tested.

"The stay-at-home order isn't going to stop everybody. ... There are still going to be people who don't follow it, but it's going to stop a good amount," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said that when combined with other measures taken in the county, a stay-at-home order can slow the spread of COVID-19.

Armstrong also said that unlike in other disaster situations, agencies cannot call for mutual aid partners from the outside area because the spread of COVID-19 is a national situation where resources are not available as they ordinarily would be.

Lockard said the Johnson County Ambulance District is facing many of the same challenges as the hospital, but in a mobile environment.

Lockard stated that working to protect staff from contracting COVID-19 is critical to JCAD's operation.

"That would be what would hinder our ability to respond not just to COVID sick patients, but for the continued folks who have strokes, heart attacks, car accidents and all the other 911-type emergencies," Lockard said.

Lockard also said he is concerned that the community has been under the previous JCCHS order long enough that they've relaxed and is seeing more people traveling and going out.

"I think it's time to elevate and reiterate the urgency of this situation," Lockard said.

The Johnson County Commission and JCCHS are acting in accordance with state statute 192.300.

Presiding Commissioner Bill Gabel stated that keeping densities down and keeping people home unless necessary to leave will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Staff Writer Dustin Steinhoff can be reached by emailing dustin.steinhoff@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.​

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