Riley County removes screening requirements for bars, restaurant employees

Riley County commissioners, acting as the county board of health, on Monday voted to remove screening requirements for restaurant and bar employees in the latest local health order.

The order went into effect Tuesday and remains largely the same from the previous order, which includes keeping mass gatherings to 50 people or fewer, closing bars and dine-in services at midnight and keeping seated parties at least 6 feet apart.

However, instead of ordering bars and restaurants to have employees fill out health screening forms before and after shifts, it is now “strongly recommended” they do so.

The records do not need to be maintained or provided to the health department.

County counselor Clancy Holeman said he had a discussion with a local attorney who said there may be misconceptions that the screening sheets may be used for contact tracing purposes, which Julie Gibbs, Riley County Health Department director and local health officer, denied.

To clear any possible confusion, the board voted to clarify some of the wording in the order, and made it voluntary, rather than mandatory, for bar and restaurant employees to fill out the screening forms.

These forms help notify management as to whether it needs to take further action and have an employee who is experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms self-quarantine.

For those who do fill out the forms, employees also do not have to sign their initials. Holeman said because the forms will only be for internal purposes, there is no need for signatures.

Commissioner John Ford said he preferred to make additional amendments to the health order sooner rather than later as populations such as students continue to return to the area.

“I’m aware of some other businesses outside of the restaurant and bar sectors that are kind of doing something similar with this (employee screening) as well,” Ford said. “… I think it’s another solid way of trying to mitigate some factors to keep some other difficult things from having to happen hopefully down the road.”

Riley County’s total cases on Monday increased by six from Friday’s report with the number of active cases reaching 126. There have 483 confirmed cases and five coronavirus-related deaths.

As of Monday, the county had 146 tests pending and 4,929 negative tests.

As of Monday, Ascension Via Christi Hospital workers were caring for two positive patients, one of which was on a ventilator.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported 31,730 cases, 1,911 hospitalizations and 387 deaths statewide Monday.

That was up 1,092 cases, 36 hospitalizations and 7 deaths from Friday. KDHE and Riley County releases data Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Geary County had 194 cases while Pottawatomie County had 115, according to KDHE. Geary County was up one case from Friday, and Pottawatomie was up two.

As of Monday, there had been 294,939 negative tests statewide, according to KDHE.