According to Geary County Emergency Manager Garry Berges, Geary County is most likely safe from Novel Coronavirus.
He said Wednesday the county and its residents are still at low risk of contracting the new disease.
Rumors that the new virus had reached Geary and Riley Counties are simply untrue, Berges said.
“Right now, we have no active or suspected cases in Geary County,” he said.
At this time, there is only one confirmed case of Coronavirus in Kansas in the Johnson County area, where a woman contracted the illness, he said.
County health and emergency management officials continue to meet twice a week, according to Berges, to assess the risk of Coronavirus and discuss plans to contend with it if it does end up here. These meetings include regular consultations with state officials and with department heads across the city and county government and Fort Riley.
“We’re bringing in more key players as needed,” Berges said. “Should there be a case that occurs here in Geary County — or maybe even Fort Riley, a place close by — we’ll be meeting more often and we’re getting stuff set up so we can let everybody know what’s going on.”
He said a public meeting would be held at some point in the future, but that no date had been set yet.
The flu poses a more active danger, Berges said.
“People are still more apt to get the regular flu than they are the Coronavirus,” he said.
While he said he hadn’t seen much overt panic from the local population yet, he said he had noticed people going out and buying extra supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and toilet paper to the point of depleting stores’ supplies of these products. This is happening all over the country where Coronavirus has been spotted, but according to Berges it’s not a good idea.
Overbuying supplies just means there’s nothing left for the next shopper, which means the next shopper may not have soap to wash their hands with, which can spread disease of all kinds.
“They just need to treat it like the normal flu,” he said. “Sure you need some extra supplies, but some people are getting three or four months of toilet paper and that’s a little bit extreme. Of course then everybody else is going to be without it and then people are going to be panicking. So people need to just take a breather and just think about what they’re doing.”
People, Berges said, see unsettling news on and off social media and it causes them to worry, but he advised the local population not to panic.
According to numbers provided by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment, at this time there are still more deaths from influenza than from the new Coronavirus, Berges said. This could change as time goes on, because according to the Centers for Disease Control, Coronavirus has a higher fatality rate than the flu.
According to an article posted Wednesday on sciencealert.com, the fatality rate for coronavirus is about 3.5 percent, compared to the flu’s fatality rate of .1 percent.
This is, again, not to send people into a panic, but rather to present them with the facts.
Caution, not fear, is what Berges advises.
People are asked to wash their hands and avoid crowds, Berges said, because the disease is airborne. He said it can live on a surface for up to three days.
“It lands and then you touch something,” he said. “Well, think about everything you touch. Going in and out of doors — you’re touching doors constantly. You’re picking up your phones to talk, you’re picking up paperwork off a desk and that kind of stuff. So that’s why people just need to do the normal hygiene of washing their hands with soap and water, try to avoid crowds and just take the extra precautions and they should be ok.”
If someone is sick, Berges said, they should stay home until whatever illness they have has run its course — even if they’re sure it’s not coronavirus.
If someone does suspect they have coronavirus, they should self-quarantine, according to Berges, and avoid even other family members. People who believe they may have the new virus should contact their regular physician by phone or by email for instructions on what to do.
City Manager Allen Dinkel agreed with Berges that there was little to worry about.
The city has a plan in place to deal with an outbreak. The city has no intentions of shutting down. Police, fire and emergency management will continue to function, according to Dinkel, even if there is an outbreak in Junction City.
“Our attitude right now is be prepared, but don’t overthink it right now,” he said. “Can’t fret yet, because you don’t know what level it’s going to be. I think we’re prepared to get through it.”
Dinkel encouraged people not to grow to “excited” about the virus.
“I don’t know how serious it will be,” he said. “You have to wait and see.”
With only one diagnosed case in Kansas so far, it’s too early to know how it will play out, according to Dinkel.
“I think we’re prepared for any disaster as far as the city’s concerned,” he said.