WAMEGO, MARCH 18 -- The potential spread of the COVID-19 virus is impacting the city of Wamego and related activities.
The Wamego City Commission last night heard reports regarding steps taken by city and city-related entities in response to the virus, including cancellation of two major events.
“It’s a very fluid situation right now, but we want the public to know we’re doing everything we can to keep the community safe,” said Wamego Fire Chief Phil Stultz.
Speaking for himself and Wamego Police Chief Mike Baker, Stultz said both departments have initiated protocols to ensure multiple members of their departments don’t become infected with the virus.
“We have contingency plans if any members of the fire department or police department become infected,” Stultz said.
Steve Land, director of Wamego Health Center, gave a similar assessment.
“From a health care perspective, things are changing rapidly,” Land said.
In order to safeguard the health of the WHC staff, Land asked citizens with symptoms of the virus to first call their physician’s office to manage the symptoms by phone.
Two upcoming community events––the Wicked Race and Tulip Festival––have been canceled, although the latter may be rescheduled.
The annual Wicked Race, scheduled for March 28, was canceled, but Director Doug Sellers said entrants could still run a “virtual race” to qualify for medals and larger marathons.
“We’ll try again next year,” Sellers told commissioners.
The annual Tulip Festival was scheduled for April 18-19, and the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors was expected to decide Friday whether or not to reschedule the event, according to Kara Holle, Event and Tourism coordinator.
“This is really hard because Wamego––unlike a lot of other communities––is used to inviting people to the community,” City Manager Stacie Eichem said. “But we will make it through this.”
In response to two executive orders issued March 17 by Governor Laura Kelly, the city has also taken the following steps to enhance “social distancing” to reduce potential spread of the virus:
• City Park shelter houses will not be reserved for eight weeks, except for the USD 320 Food Service which is using the Depot Shelterhouse to distribute “grab & go” meals to students.
• The children’s train in the park will not run for eight weeks.
• Municipal Court sessions have been canceled until May 13.
• No large groups are allowed on city property.
• Employees will practice the “six-foot rule” to reduce the threat of infecting others.
• The city’s employee appreciation event scheduled for March 20 has been canceled.
• The indoor pool of the Aquatic Center was closed last Tuesday until further notice.
• City recreation events were canceled through the end of March.
• The lobby of the city office will remain open, but those who are ill or who have been traveling are asked to not come in. Utility bills may be paid online (www.wamego.org) or by phone (1-877-885-7968) or by using the drop box on the north side of the building. All credit card and online fees are being waived.
“Basically, we’ll make adjustments as needed as we go,” Eichem told commissioners.
As of March 18, only 16 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Kansas, and none in Pottawatomie County.