Douglas County recommends restaurants halt dine-ins, advises public gatherings under 10 people for 8 weeks

photo by: Kevin Anderson/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence-Douglas County health department's home at the Community Health Facility, 200 Maine St., is pictured in this file photo from July 2010.

Story updated at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday

New recommendations from the Douglas County health department stop short of ordering the closure of local restaurants, as has been done in nearby Kansas City, instead “strongly” advising that they halt in-house dining amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health on Tuesday also ordered an eight-week halt to gatherings of 50 people or more, and it recommended against gatherings with more than 10 people for the same period.

On Monday, Kansas City officials ordered the closing of restaurants, bars and movie theaters through April 1, with the exception of pickup and delivery services. Affected areas included Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Jackson County, Mo.

Kansas City officials also banned public gatherings of more than 10 people, although they exempted government, religious and private business activities.

Douglas County’s health department did not say in its announcement whether it plans to strengthen its recommendations into an order, as Kansas City did, or what would guide the department to make that decision. It also did not mention exemptions for its order against gatherings of 50 people or more.

The measures are intended as a proactive social distancing measure, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health said in a press release.

“We would strongly recommend people limit their gatherings of 10 people or more as we try to flatten the curve of the spread of this disease,” Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County’s health officer, said in the release. “People need to avoid non-essential community engagement and non-essential trips out of their homes.”

Marcellino’s order to prohibit public gatherings in the county of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks is in line with an executive order issued Monday by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. On Friday, Marcellino had previously ordered a halt to gatherings of 250 people or more and told local schools, recreation centers and libraries to close for 14 days.

The county’s recommended 10-person limit goes beyond a recommendation announced Monday by the White House, which recommended a 10-person limit at gatherings for at least the next 15 days.

Douglas County’s first case of coronavirus was announced Tuesday afternoon.

Marcellino also recommended that:

• People should avoid nonessential trips and stay home as much as possible.

• Daycare centers should close while schools are closed.

• People should avoid unnecessary social gatherings.

• If out in public, people should maintain a distance of six feet from others.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the pandemic continues, the Journal-World will be making coverage of COVID-19 available outside of the paywall on

Find all coverage of city, county and state responses to the virus at:

What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.


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