KDHE secretary encourages continued gradual approach to reopening KS economy

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 4:04 PM CDT
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While the impact on COVID-19 cases from the recent Memorial Day weekend remains to be seen, one of the state's top health officials encourages counties to continue taking a gradual approach to opening local economies.

Latest numbers from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment show, as of 9 a.m. Wednesday (May 27) shows 9,337 total cases in Kansas, including 205 deaths and 822 hospitalizations.

The death total is a jump of 17 from Monday's data, but this does not mean that 17 people died from COVID-19 so far this week. KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman says that increase has more to do with timing of submitted data through the recent holiday weekend and is not a direct reflection of carelessness over the three-day break.

Dr. Norman says a big part of the story is updated data from Finney and Wyandotte counties, two of the most heavily-impacted Kansas counties in terms of total COVID-19 cases.

A little more than half of the total deaths related to COVID-19 in Kansas come from long-term care facilities (107).

While increased testing efforts area yielding encouraging results in the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Norman emphasizes the importance of wearing masks when possible in public and practicing social distancing.

While not a full-proof guard against the spread of COVID-19, he says wearing one is better than not when it comes to safeguarding against the virus.

While there are definite health benefits to being outside, mass gatherings like what occurred at a pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend frustrate health experts. Sun and fresh air don't effectively prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 with people clustered together, not separating by at least six feet, doctors warn.

"You're safer outside as long as you're social distancing," Dr. Norman says.

Preventative measures taken as part of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's

have proven effective, Dr. Norman says.

With reopening decisions now in the control of individual counties, he encourages leaders to adhere to the gradual approach of the plan and to diligently monitor hospital beds.

He acknowledges that not all counties are created equal when ti comes to approaches to safely reopen and some with few or no cases "can have more latitude for easing restrictions."