Governor unveils plan to reopen Kansas
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s detailed framework for gradually, safely reopening the Kansas economy and getting Kansans back to work if social distancing guidelines are maintained was spotlighted in a televised address on Thursday, it was reported.
Gov. Kelly’s framework, “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas,” comes five weeks after a statewide stay-home order became necessary to aggressively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The first phase of the plan will take effect on Monday, May 4, via Executive Order 20-29, when the statewide stay-home order outlined in Executive Order 20-16 officially lifts, shifting to county-by-county guidelines.
“I am incredibly proud of how the people of Kansas met the moment and answered the call to hunker down,” Gov. Kelly said. “It has been a difficult time that has taken a painful toll… financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually and professionally on Kansans,” Kelly said. “But because Kansans took this seriously, COVID-19 has inflicted far less devastation on Kansas than it did in other states.”
The announcement of the plan came on a day when Kansas health authorities reported 500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths, bringing the state’s total at the end of April to 4,238 confirmed cases and 129 deaths. A total of 27,388 negative tests have been reported; Kansas’ population currently stands at 2.9 million.
Under the plan, some businesses will not be allowed to open until at least Monday, May 18, when the first phase of Kelly’s four-phase plan is expected to expire, the governor said. Those businesses include fitness centers, theaters, barbershops, hair and nail salons and non-tribal casinos; bars will also remain closed except for curbside service to customers.
Also, under the first phase, organized sports, community swimming pools, festivals, parades and graduation ceremonies will not be allowed, but child care facilities and libraries may open, she said. Business that open during the first phase are required to maintain a six-foot space between customers, and mass gatherings are still limited to 10 or fewer.
Restaurants will be allowed to offer dine-in service, but with tables limited to parties of 10 and kept six feet apart while back-to-back booths will be allowed with barriers between them. Churches and other houses of worship may also hold services with more than 10 people present, but social distancing guidelines must be maintained.
In the second phase, to begin no earlier than Monday, May 18, the limit on mass gatherings is raised to 30, bars and nightclubs may operate at no more than 50 percent of total occupancy, non-tribal casinos may open if complaint with KDHE-approved guidelines and swimming pools and community centers may also open.
Organized sports facilities and tournaments may also operate in the second phase, with some exceptions, but fairs, festivals, parade, graduations, summer camps and entertainment at large venues with capacities of 2,000 or more are still not allowed.
Phase three, to begin no earlier than Monday, June 1, raises the limits on mass gatherings to 90 and sets the resumption of “nonessential travel,” while “on-site staffing is unrestricted” at businesses. All education, activities, venues and establishments may operate pursuant to the mass gathering guideline, it was reported.
The fourth phase, Kelly said, would be a “phase out” period beginning no sooner than Monday, June 15, at which time remaining state restrictions would begin to be lifted. Social distancing guidelines in this phase are still recommended where applicable and travel will be unrestricted.
The framework is structured to return more flexibility to local community response efforts, while still operating under a statewide, regulatory baseline. It allows local governments to impose additional restrictions beyond those outlined at the state level, if they deem it necessary to local COVID-19 response efforts.
Local governments that choose not to impose additional restrictions are required to operate within the regulatory baseline established by the state. This approach, Kelly said, will increase flexibility for local communities while also ensuring a gradual, safe transition statewide.
“My Ad Astra plan was developed in collaboration with my state health department, state emergency management team, business leaders and a diverse team of community leaders,” she said. “It aims to balance the needs and concerns identified throughout diverse regions of the state, and sectors of the Kansas economy, but without compromising public health and safety. Data must drive this process… not dates.”
The governor said she will evaluate the state’s disease spread, testing rates, death rates, hospitalizations, ability of state and local public health authorities to contain outbreaks and conduct contact tracing and personal protective equipment availability when determining if the state should move to the next phase.
Regardless of phase, the State Health Officer retains the authority to impose additional public health interventions in any area that contains an emergent and significant public health risk.
Throughout all phases, Kansans are advised to continue to adhere to hygiene and social distancing protocols, including washing hands frequently, while avoiding contact with one’s face; remaining home when sick or running a fever; following isolation and quarantine orders issued by state or local health officers; wearing a cloth face mask when in public; and working remotely, if possible.
These are basic public health guidelines that will slow the spread of this disease, regardless of which phase is in effect, and are essential to minimizing community transmission of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine, the governor said.
“Even if Kansans do everything perfectly for the next couple of months, new outbreaks are almost inevitable until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, manufactured and made widely available. It is essential that we make this transition slowly, gradually and cautiously,” Kelly said.