HAYS—Starting Monday, Ellis County will limit to 50 people any wedding receptions, meetings and other big gatherings inside its popular Unrein and Schenk rental buildings on the Ellis County Fairgrounds.

Additionally, starting Sept. 1, the county is canceling all indoor mass gatherings at the two multi-purpose buildings.

"Our county health officer recommended on Monday that we begin restricting mass gatherings at county-owned buildings," confirmed Ellis County Administrator J.D. Cox to The Hays Daily News.

"This only applies to county-owned buildings," Cox said. "We had a couple of outbreaks as a result of mass gatherings at those buildings."

"I know people put tons of time and effort and money into these events," said Ellis County Health Services director Jason Kennedy in an interview. "So my intent was to be cognizant of that and to give people some time and advance notification. I know a couple weeks or a month doesn’t make enough notice for weddings, but we did want to provide some notification to people so that they could make other arrangements or make notifications."

County fairgrounds representatives began calling people this week to notify them of the booking cancellations from September on.

"As we get into flu season and adding in other viruses with COVID, we will continue to see this mass gathering become a problem, we will continue to see super-spreader type events. So the intent was to get ahead of that," Kennedy said. "These buildings are booked pretty much year-around so this is to give appropriate notification and really to give everybody as much early notice as we can."

Kennedy said cases have already come out of mass gatherings at the buildings.

"It’s a great time for us to show the public that if we’re going to ask you to do it, we need to be able to do it ourselves," he said. "So this is my intent, to say the county is taking these proactive measures to protect the citizens of Ellis County. We would love the citizens and private businesses of Ellis County to take some measures to also further that protection."

Ellis County had one COVID-19-related death, earlier this month.