The Geary County Commission voted in favor Monday afternoon of extending a health order that’s currently in place for 30 days starting Sept. 18.

Geary County Health Department Director Dr. Tammy Von Busch addressed the commissioners and asked them for this extension.

The current health order bans people from sitting at the bar to eat their food and beverages.

The order reads “consumption of food or beverages shall only take place at a table via seated or standing service."

This was a topic of discussion during the meeting.

"When it comes to contract tracing, you have a whole bunch of people who don’t know each other standing at the bars — and that’s frequently what happens — and not just standing at the bars, but sitting at the counter at a restaurant,” Von Busch said. “If one of those people tests positive, they don’t know who the other people that were there around them are. And so all we can do is deal with the one person that tested positive and we can put a note out.”

She said the problem with this is, often people can’t pinpoint the exact time they were at a bar or a restaurant.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what times they’ve been in and out of a facility,” Von Busch said.

Sitting at the bar also exposes not just the person sitting there but possibly others, according to Commissioner Brad Scholz. He noted that while many bars have barriers to protect patrons and workers, many of those barriers are at eye level. People sitting at bars can still spread their germs to people — and things — behind those barriers.

Scholz also noted that many bars have items located directly behind them — including items such as glasses — that are used in serving patrons.

Therefore, he reasoned, allowing people to be seated at the bar was risky.

It’s also difficult to enforce the health order, Scholz said.

“I’m not speaking for law enforcement, I’m just speaking on behalf of what I understand,” Scholz said. “It’s hard for them to enforce it if we keep changing it every few days.”

He said the county needed to discuss in more depth what the penalties were for establishments violating the health order, to make things run more smoothly for law enforcement.

“We can always change it if the numbers go up or the numbers go down,” Scholz said.

During the meeting, the commission also heard from County Clerk Rebecca Nordyke and agreed to have a security camera running 24/7 on the ballot drop-off box. The box will sit outside the county office once absentee voting begins.

Geary County Emergency Management Director Garry Berges also attended the meeting to discuss the use of Spark funds to set up an Emergency Operations Center. Spark funds COVID-19 emergency monies which can only be spent on COVID-19-related items. Any Spark money not used by the county by Dec. 31 of this year must be turned back over to the state.

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