NEWTON — On Tuesday morning, the Harvey County Commission, serving as the Harvey County Board of Health, voted to reinstate Phase 3 of the county COVID-19 plan.
Commissioner Randy Hague said the area is "way worse off" than months ago when the county issued stay-at-home orders.
"My concern right now is that if we don’t do something now and roll back to Phase 3, that down the road we will be back to stay-at-home," Hague said. "Businesses closed. Schools closed."
Under Phase 3, the county health order limits mass gatherings to 45 people or fewer and limits outside visitors to nursing homes.
Area nursing homes have already limited visitors voluntarily, as the county health department has announced three different case clusters in nursing homes in the last two years.
"We need to do this purposely," said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. "We are all fatigued with the disease. We are tired of talking about it. We are tired of washing our hands. At this point (however), we have to do something about it."
On Oct. 18, the county was seeing 18 cases per 100,000 people. On Nov. 1, the county was seeing 732 cases per 100,000 people.
"Our public health system is overwhelmed," Redington said. "Our health system being overwhelmed is huge, and we need to do something."
The hospital in Newton started with eight beds, with the ability to add six. Currently all 14 beds designated for treatment of COVID-19 are full.
Regional hospitals in Wichita and Hutchinson have also reached capacity.
Hague noted that surrounding counties, with the exception of Butler County, are more restrictive than Harvey County.
"People are tired of the disease and they are tired of the regulations," Westfall said. "There is a lot of consent right now of ’whatever happens, happens.’ I agree right now that there needs to be guidance from us."