By Associated Press - Thursday, April 23, 2020

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A city commissioner in Manhattan, Kansas, said he was frustrated with government stay-at-home orders when he commented at a commission meeting this week that he was close to hoping everyone would get the coronavirus so the pandemic would end.

“And I’m almost to the point where it’s like, let’s everybody get the … thing and get it over with so that we have the immunity, so we can get back to living,” Commissioner Mark Hatesohl said at a meeting Tuesday.

On Thursday, Hatesohl said he did not want everyone to get the coronavirus but he does believe government and health officials are overstating the threat, which is devastating the economy. He said he made the remarks after commissioners had been told about the serious economic impact the pandemic was having on Manhattan.

“Something has to give on closing everything down,” Hatesohl said. “We can open businesses in a safe way. … There is no reason to keep ruining our economy, our numbers are not spiking. It has to end and we should do whatever it takes to get it over.”

The new coronavirus has caused a global pandemic that has sickened millions and killed more than 185,000 worldwide, crippled economies and forced restrictions on the movement of millions of people as governments try to stop the virus from spreading further and overwhelming health care systems.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

While Hatesohl said those most at risk for severe illness should stay home and their families and friends should take precautions, he suggested that health officials are overstating the threat for most people. He noted the Manhattan area has not had a major outbreak.

However, Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi said the reason the city hasn’t had a large number of confirmed cases is because people are staying at home, The Manhattan Mercury reported.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s health director, said Thursday that allowing the coronavirus to run its course in the hopes of developing herd immunity before a vaccine is developed is “a really bad idea.” He noted that the death toll nationally would be enormous because “a very small percentage of 340 million people is a lot of people.”

“The more modern approach would be to do all the other mitigating things that we can do, push as may cases into the future as possible and then we’ll have a vaccine, then we’ll get herd immunity through the vaccine,” Norman said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday reported 2,211 confirmed cases and 110 deaths in the state. The number of infections is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

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