TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) Update Thursday evening, April 30, 2020
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly in an address to the state Thursday evening, confirmed the statewide "Safer-at-Home" order will lift Monday (May 4,) followed by a phased-in approach to reopening the state.
This plan breaks into three phases, the first of which starts Monday and continues for at least 14 days (at least until May 18 before transitioning into Phase Two).
As directed by executive order, Phase One of the governor's reopening plan continues to limit mass gatherings to no more than 10 people. Individuals are "strongly encouraged to wear masks in public settings" and to maintain six-foot social distance.
With this guideline, there's a Phase-One limit on businesses that can reopen next week.
The guidelines do "not limit total occupancy of a business, but requires that businesses limit areas and instances in which consistent physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as tables, entrances, lobbies, break rooms, check-out areas, etc.," Kelly explains.
With continued restrictions at least for two more weeks, a few categories of businesses will remain closed at least until May 18. These include
• Bars and night clubs, excluding already-operating curbside and carryout services,
• Non-tribal casinos
• Theaters, museums, and other indoor leisure spaces (trampoline parks, arcades, etc.)
• Fitness centers and gyms, and
• Nail salons, barbershops, hair salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlors "an other personal-service businesses where close contact cannot be avoided."
While many businesses can start to get back to work next week, the state encourages continued precautions including recommendations to wear a mask in public settings and for high-risk individuals to stay at home as much as possible.
Phase Two of the plan to reopen Kansas, starting no earlier than May 18, includes the reopening of non-tribal casinos and clearance for bars and nightclubs allowed to open at 50-percent total occupancy. The mass-gathering restriction jumps from no more than 10, to a maximum of 30 people.
Under the heading of "education, activities and venues allowed to operate" in Phase Two are childcare facilities, libraries, swimming pools, community centers, and "organized sports facilities and tournaments "with some exceptions."
Activities/sites not yet allowed to open in the second phase of Kelly's plan to reopen Kansas are large entertainment venues of 2,000 or more people, fairs, festivals, parades, graduations and summer camps.
K-12 schools remain closed "except that up to 30 students, instructors or staff may be present for normal operations," Phase 2 of the plan says.
In the third and final phase of the plan to reopen Kansas, "all education, activities, venues and establishments may operate pursuant to mass-gathering guidelines," the plan says.
The mass-gathering restriction increases to no more than 90 people, up from the maximum of 30 in Phase 2 of the reopening. plan
All businesses, activities and venues can be open as long as they can maintain at least six feet of distance between customers (individuals or groups), Phase 3 of the reopening plan says.
"Restaurants or dining establishments may meet this requirement by using physical barriers sufficient to prevent virus spread between seated customers or groups of seated customers," the state says.
Another big development in Phase 3 is that "nonessential travel may resume."
If each phase lasts two weeks, the final, phase-out step can begin June 15. This brings us back to unrestricted travel and no limit on gathering sizes, although groups should maintain social distance (six feet) where applicable, the state says.
"Once the state is in Phase Out, the governor will issue additional guidelines to explain what health metrics will trigger an elimination of the statewide restrictions," the reopening plan says.
Kelly says local governments (counties) have the authority to impose equal or more stringent restrictions during each phase of the state's reopening plan. What local leaders cannot do is stray from the phased-in plan with lighter local restrictions.
Republican members of the Kansas House of Representatives issued a joint statement after Kelly's address Thursday, critical of the governor's plan that "passes the buck onto the counties, leaving businesses to deal with a patchwork of regulations and not holding businesses accountable to the same rules."
Wednesday, the Sedgwick County Commission took action, recommending that the local stay-at-home order ends. That decision, however, will ultimately be up to Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns.
Dr. Minns says if the stay-at-home order for Sedgwick County lifts, not much will change, at least for the first two weeks. He warns that too fast of a return to life as we knew before the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to quick spread of the virus. The biggest threat that comes with a spike in cases is the chance that it could overwhelm hospitals.
A panel of doctors in Sedgwick County recently recommended that the county's stay-at-home order extend for at least another seven days.
With the authority to make the call on whether the order extends in Sedgwick County, Dr. Minns Thursday night said he would look over the governor's guidelines closely.
Even after the local order lifts, he recommends wearing a face mask at all times when you're out in public, or even when you're in a small group, visiting a close friend or family member.
"The main tools we have to keep this virus from getting out of control and preventing as many infections as possible from this point have basically been behavioral changes," Dr. Minns says. "
Over the next few months, what happens inside hospitals will determine local decisions when it comes to safety measures against COVID-19.
Thursday night, Kelly commended Kansans for taking COVID-19 seriously and following stay-at-home orders.
“I am incredibly proud of how the people of Kansas met the moment and answered the call to hunker down,” the governor 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.”
Gov. Laura Kelly will give a formal address Thursday to unveil guidelines for businesses and local governments to follow as the state emerges from a month-long stay-at-home order set to expire May 3.
Eyewitness News will cover the address live on KWCH-12, KSCW, KWCH.com and the KWCH 12 app.
On mobile? CLICK HERE TO WATCH
Documents leaked Thursday morning say Kelly will continue to limit mass gatherings to 10 people or less.
Businesses will be allowed to re-open unless restricted by the local government. They will be required to maintain six feet of distance between customers and avoid any instances of groups of 10 or more where they are unable to maintain distance.
Employers are still encouraged to have their employees telework. If on-site, employers should keep mass gatherings within the workplace to 10 people or less where social distancing protocols can be maintained.
Employees who are sick are required to stay home and should be asked to call their healthcare provider.
Non-essential travel is discouraged.
High-risk individuals are still advised to stay home except when it is essential to get out. It is strongly recommended that masks be worn in public settings.
For any outdoor activities (parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), there should be at least six feet of distance from others. Group socialization should be kept to ten or less unless individuals live together.
The plan says visits to long-term care facilities and correctional facilities should remain prohibited, and those who work in the facilities "must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene and screening."
K-12 facilities remain subject to the executive order which limits the number of instructors, staff and students to ten or less.
Licensed childcare facilities may continue to operate pursuant state and local instructions.
Heading into the governor's speech, the biggest question remaining is, "What specific types of businesses can reopen, and what type can't after the stay-at-home order lifts next week?"
We've reported numerous stories on the struggles of restaurants, hair salons, gyms and entertainment venues. Unclear is what places can operate in the the first phase of the governor's plan to reopen and which ones will have to wait. From that, there's a question of how much longer a business might have to wait if they're not cleared to open next week.
We also want to know what this means for organized kids' activities this summer. Will summer school be available? Can kids go to camps? Will swimming pools be open?
And with the governor laying out plans for a first phase of reopening, what will the second phase look like, and what needs to happen with the numbers to get us to that next phase?
On his Facebook page on the post whre he shared a copy of the plans marked "CONFIDENTIAL: NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION," Rep. Stephen Owens (R-Hesston) says "Kansas deserves information as soon as its available. People's livelihoods are at stake."