By Jim McLean – Kansas News Service
Gov. Laura Kelly said in a briefing Wednesday that she’s extending her executive order that all but shut down a wide range of businesses across the state to May 3.
But her chief counsel later said it might not be that simple. The order will actually end May 1. That’s when her state of emergency declaration is scheduled to expire.
“None of our internal predictions indicate that Kansas will peak by April 19,” Kelly said, referring to the date Kelly’s initial order was set to expire. “Ideally, we need to see a reduction in the number of cases for 14 days before we begin to relax social gathering restrictions.”
Stay-at-home orders mean people, by and large, should not leave their homes except for essential business — work, grocery shopping, seeking medical care or taking care of family or friends who are in need. People can exercise outside, but cannot gather in groups larger than 10, a restriction that includes church services and funerals.
Kelly is being pressured by 43 House Republicans to reopen the Kansas economy. They wrote her a letter this week saying they wanted to know her plans to “put our lives back to normal and do so while keeping us safe and healthy.”
All of the states that surround Kansas except Nebraska have either statewide stay-at-home orders or partial ones. Kelly said she was talking with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and mayors in the Kansas City area to plan how to “reopen our economy safely,” but that Nebraska isn’t in on the talks because it is “dealing with this in a very different way.”
The regional approach to reopening is taking shape around the country, with California, Oregon and Washington starting to detail their plans.
“We believe a regional approach will reduce confusion and help keep our communities safe on both sides of the state line,” Kelly said, adding, “If we don’t do this right, we will do more damage to the economy than we can imagine.”
There also might be a more regional approach within the state, Kelly said, noting that some local officials she’s talked to may end up instituting a stay-at-home order after the statewide one has lifted.
“The way that this will work for, let’s just say Stafford County, may be very different than it will look in Wyandotte County,” she said.
Kansas has nearly 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than 300 hospitalizations and 76 deaths from the virus. Comparatively, Missouri has more than 4,800 cases and Colorado has more than 7,000 cases.
In an interview on WAMU’s “1A” radio program earlier in the day, Kelly defended the possibility of extending her executive order, as well as being the first governor in the country to send children home from the rest of the school year.
“The states that closed down the schools the earliest … those states were able to bend the curve, flatten the curve,” the governor said. “Yes, we have too many cases, and we have way too many deaths, but I think it would have been far worse if we had not acted aggressively.”
Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.