TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) today announced their continued efforts to shift to the next chapter of the COVID-19 response, pivoting from emergency pandemic response to endemic normalcy. On April 1, KDHE will make changes to continue the transition from emergency response to our ‘new normal,’ which includes life with COVID-19—similar to how we deal with other recurring diseases like the flu. Using the lessons learned over the past two years, KDHE will continue to ensure the State is prepared for potential surges or other needs that might arise in the future.
“Kansas is continuing the transition to a new phase of understanding and living with COVID-19,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We know the pandemic is not over, however we now have the tools and knowledge obtained over the past two years to prevent or reduce the spread of the virus. We are normalizing our COVID-19 response and incorporating these lessons into our larger efforts at improving health outcomes for all Kansans, which includes work on multiple diseases and an awareness of differing risk factors.”
This decision comes as current COVID-19 metrics are moving in the right direction. Over the last two years, KDHE has made significant progress in keeping Kansas communities safe with the help of partners throughout the State: over 7 million tests have been given, over 4 million vaccines have been administered, and over 78% of eligible Kansans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
“In our new normal, we will continue to ensure that Kansans have equitable access to life-saving vaccines, tests, and treatments. This shift does not mean that COVID is over, but rather we are working to manage the disease in a way that allows us to maintain a more normal life that is once again filled with friends, families and other loved ones,” said KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek.
Working with Local Health Departments (LHDs) and stakeholders, KDHE’s endemic plan addresses six key areas that are designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Kansans:
- Intervention: KDHE will continue to provide comprehensive guidance, while continuing to offer additional assistance to underserved and/or vulnerable populations.
- Vaccination: KDHE will focus on making sure vulnerable populations have access to the COVID-19 vaccine while existing vaccine providers, including health care providers, pharmacists, hospitals, and LHDs, will continue to serve the broader population.
- Treatment: KDHE will continue to ensure Kansans will be able to receive COVID-19 treatment across the State, as treatment distribution shifts away from public health entities and back to local health care providers.
- Testing: KDHE will continue to support access to free testing across the state through community testing sites, LHDs, and K-12 schools as long as federal funding is available. In addition, the federal government provides direct testing support to Federally Qualified Health Centers and pharmacies around the state. To find a free testing location near you, go to knowbeforeyougoKS.com. KDHE testing support for Long Term Care Facilities will be phased out on May 15, 2022, and testing support for employers ends on June 30, 2022.
- Monitoring: KDHE will continue to monitor data as reported by organizations and facilities across the state to understand the status of COVID-19 and proactively identify at-risk groups. Public reporting will be reduced to once a week.
- Communications: KDHE will continue to provide essential and accessible COVID information to keep Kansans safe and aware of any subsequent changes to COVID-19 response efforts.
Across each of the above areas, KDHE will remain prepared to ramp up capacity to quickly respond to a surge and keep Kansans safe should the need arise.