Kansans protest stay-at-home order in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) Hundreds of Kansas rallied in Topeka Thursday afternoon protesting the state's stay-at-home order.

Gov. Laura Kelly extended the order to May 3. The goal was to get Kansas beyond its peak of COVID-19 cases and avoid flooding hospitals with sick patients.

But business owners and laid-off workers crowded the lawns of the State Capitol building and the streets in front of it. They said hospitals aren't overwhelmed but businesses and employees are suffering.

“I feel like I’m a political prisoner,” said one protestor.

“It’s a right to work, I mean I need to work personally, and that’s one of the reasons I was able to come up here,” said Douglas Brown.

The self-employed protestor said he was put out of the work by the coronavirus pandemic. He said he's tried to file for unemployment but was denied.

“As a sole proprietor, I’m not entitled to Kansas unemployment. I tried to file once, but it didn’t go through,” said yet another.

Everyone who gathered in Topeka wasn't there to protest the governor's order. A group of four people in scrubs said they showed up to show support for the doctors and nurses on the front line.

“We just wanted to come out and send support to our fellow healthcare workers and really all the essential workers out here, sacrificing to keep everyone safe,” said Nurse Elizabeth Bechard.

The healthcare workers warn there could be more consequences if everything just goes back to normal quickly.

"Worldwide, healthcare workers and nurses are going through a lot, and I felt like this was a way I could show them my support," Berchard says.

She points out the doctors and nurses are the ones who will see and feel the result of a spike in COVID-19 cases from restrictions lifting too quickly.

Gov. Kelly says she understands protesters' frustrations, but the sate won't reopen until health indicators allow.

She says she's been in talks with local governments, health officials and business leaders as she looks to issue more guidance next week on how Kansas will lift the stay-at-home order.

Like Kansas, most states are taking a gradual approach to reopening businesses. Some already have plans to reopen in phases.

Colorado and Oklahoma plan to allow select businesses like hair and nail salons to reopen as soon as this week. Some beaches in Florida have already reopened and Georgia's governor says places like gyms and bowling alleys can reopen with limitations this week, as well.

However, some specific cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are not gearing up to reopen just yet.