Gov. Laura Kelly explains 'gradual process' to reopen KS businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Wednesday further elaborated on Tuesday's announcement that her administration continues to eye May 3 as the date to re-open business in Kansas.

FILE - In this April 15, 2020 file photo, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic from the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020,Kelly announced that the state has relaxed its guidelines for when people are tested for coronavirus so that more people can get tested. (AP Photo/John Hanna File)

Kelly says reopening will be a gradual process, not as simple as "flipping a switch."

She agrees with state health officials hoping to see a steady 14-day decline in new case numbers.

"Declining cases at the local level will go into account as well," she says.

In considering a potential timeline for reopening Kansas, the governor is working with local leaders.

"We must identify statewide metrics to open," she says.

This includes testing, hospitalization numbers, and the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) supply. The governor says she'll attach statewide benchmarks next week to the statewide metrics.

Encouraging updates include more widespread COVID-19 testing in Kansas, local indicators on new cases showing the stay-at-home order has been effective and hospitals not being overwhelmed with severe cases.

In the state, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment identifies clusters, helping to narrow down possible case origins and limit further spread. The increased testing is also crucial in lowering the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

As Kelly discussed Tuesday, Kansans now only need two symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested for the disease produced by the novel coronavirus. Those symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

From the federal level down, when it comes to reopening, testing capacities are a major factor in determining safe timelines. The KDHE says it'll be able to identify more cases in the state with more testing. The state's health department also says Kansas has probably reached it's peak for COVID-19 cases, or will soon.

"Broader testing is always going to increase numbers," KDHE Secretary Lee Norman says.

Norman says it's likely we'll see a second wave of COVID-19 in fall and winter and Kansas needs to be prepared with a testing strategy to help limit the spread. With the "second wave," Kelly says the state would put guidelines back in place in phases.

With eyes toward reopening, Kelly says discussions with chamber of commerce leaders with Kansas City and Sedgwick County reveal a common top priority, "customers' and workers' safety is paramount."