Illustrated coronavirus cells fill the frame (copy)

The Douglas County health department announced it would be extending the third phase of its reopening plan for two more weeks.

Douglas County will remain in its current phase of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s reopening plan through July 5 following an increase in confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced Friday in a statement

Douglas County is in phase three of its reopening plan, which was adapted from Kelly’s statewide plan. This phase could have ended as early as June 22, but the health department decided to leave current restrictions in place for an additional two weeks. 

“We have seen an uptick in recent activity suggesting the coronavirus has become more active in our county,” said Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County Health Officer, in the statement.

Douglas County has at least 91 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of June 19, according to data from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

The county reported its first outbreak of the virus June 12, when four individuals tested positive with the same identified source of exposure at a place of business. 

Under current restrictions, which began June 8, mass gatherings are limited to 45 people. All businesses are allowed to reopen, as long as they follow cleaning guidelines and social distancing practices. 

“I believe it’s more prudent to extend Phase 3 for two more weeks so we can get an idea of the trend of the virus and prevent chances for large mass gatherings that could potentially be a source of a large outbreak that could be devastating,” Marcellino said. 

The reopening plan tracks five different metrics that help determine when the county is ready to ease restrictions, including the number of active cases, cases per week caused by local transmission and the community’s medical surge capacity.

On Monday, the county was “on target” in two metrics and “near goal” in the remaining three. 

Marcellino said there are encouraging signs in all metrics, but as the number of cases has increased in the past two weeks, the public should remain cautious and wear masks in public places, especially indoors. 

“Personally, I have been disappointed with what I have observed with mask wearing overall, and I am aware of other states and cities that have mandated it,” Marcellino said in the statement. “We are hoping our community has better compliance, so that we don’t have to take those measures.”

A mask or cloth face covering should be worn whenever people are in public, Marcellino said, and businesses should require employees to wear masks. Masks should be worn outside when it’s not possible to remain six feet apart.

“We have had a strong community effort for several months, as people have made sacrifices and worked to take care of their neighbors,” Dan Partridge, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Director, said in the statement. “We are asking people to redouble their efforts and keep doing that.” 

In addition to masks, the health department encourages precautions such as avoiding large groups, practicing six feet of social distancing, wearing masks in public, frequently washing hands and staying home when sick.

The next phase of the plan is not phase four, but rather the phase out of all restrictions. Under current local health order, this can begin no earlier than July 5.