Gov. Laura Kelly said a phased approach to returning Kansans to work will begin Monday, May 4, when she will lift the statewide stay-at-home order. During a speech delivered Thursday evening, Kelly described the framework of three phases.
“During each phase, specific guidance is outlined for individuals, for employers, for educational facilities, activities and venues. We’ve taken into consideration guidance released by the federal government, stakeholders, and public health experts. Mass gathering limitations will remain in effect at each phase, but we will scale back the restrictions at each point. The process for returning to work safely will differ for each business, and will not happen all at the same time. Industry-specific guidance has been included on the state website, covid.ks.gov. And of course, all of this is subject to local approval. Additionally, each phase of this process will remain in effect for a minimum of 14 days.”
Phase One - Monday May 4
Starting Monday, mass gatherings will remain limited to 10 or fewer people. “By and large, if localities determine that the time is right, businesses that can maintain at least six feet of distance between consumers, and adhere to industry specific guidelines, can begin to transition back to work. The state will NOT issue blanket limitation on total occupancy at this time. However, we will require that businesses abide by mass gathering limitations in areas of their establishments where physical distancing is difficult. This includes areas like entrances, lobbies or break rooms.”
Not everyone included
“Unfortunately, certain types of establishments, simply by the nature of the services they provide, required unavoidable human contact that cannot be responsibly mitigated or distanced at the present time, especially with our present limitations on personal protective equipment. Therefore, the following establishments will not be included in the first phase of reopening: bars and nightclubs, excluding curbside and carry out services, non-tribal casinos, theaters, museums and other indoor leisure spaces, fitness centers and gyms, nail salons,
barbershops, hair salons, tanning salons, tattoo parlors and other personal service businesses where close contact cannot be avoided,” she said.
“Similarly, certain activities and venues will also remain on pause, including: community centers, outdoor and indoor entertainment venues with capacity of 2,000 or more, fairs, festivals, carnivals, parades and, unfortunately, graduations, swimming pools, other than backyard pools, organized sports, sporting facilities and tournaments and summer camps.”
The state will continue to monitor the COVID-19 cases and overall progress. Phase Two will start no sooner than May 18.
“During phase two, mass gatherings will be allowed for up to 30 individuals. The establishments specifically prohibited in stage one, places like fitness centers and barber shops, will be allowed to open, as long as they comply with the other baseline limitations. ... Non-tribal casinos will be allowed to open, but only if they comply with the uniform guidelines, approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Bars and nightclubs will be allowed to open at 50% of total occupancy and can continue to operate their curbside and carry-out services.
“Certain activities and venues will remain prohibited, including outdoor and indoor entertainment venues with a capacity of 2,000 or more, fairs, festivals, carnivals parades, graduations, public and private summer camps.”
“We will again evaluate our progress after 14 days, no sooner than June 1, 2020. If all goes well, this will propel us into phase three. At this point, mass gathering limitations will be expanded to 90 individuals, all business activity and venue prohibitions will be lifted, as long as they comply with baseline limitations outlined at the start of the process. Ideally, should all trends continue downward, Phase Three will culminate in a phase-out of most state restrictions no sooner than June 15, 2020.”
Not written in stone
Kelly said the framework is not written in stone and it “does not answer all of the questions I know still weigh heavily on your minds.
“We don’t know yet what school will look like In August, or if college dorms will open to students this fall semester. It’s unclear what steps we need to take to protect our elections in August and November. I’m sure we’d all enjoy taking in a baseball game this summer, or schedule that family vacation for a much-needed rest outside the house. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories about engaged couples left in limbo unsure of whether they can proceed with their wedding plans.
“And I know that the thousands of hardworking Kansans who so suddenly found themselves without work are desperate for the certainty they need to begin their job searches. Sadly, even if we do everything perfectly for the next few months, everything remains subject to the whims of this unwieldy virus.”
Continue to stay safe
Kelly reminded Kansans that the framework she outlined “is not a return to the life we knew, just a few months ago. Until a vaccine for COVID-19 was developed, we must continue to adhere to the fundamental mitigation practices that have kept us alive up to this point. That means social distancing must continue. Good hygiene, frequent hand washing, remain essential. Isolation and quarantine orders issued by health officers must be followed. If your job enables you to continue working remotely, we encourage you to pursue that option,” she said.
Kansans should consider wearing cloth masks when they leave their homes, and “Clorox, Lysol and hand sanitizer should remain on your list of household essentials, but treat them like you would do all dangerous chemicals; keep them out of reach of young children.”
To the stars
Kelly said all of the steps carry benefits and unavoidable risk.
“None of the determinations were simple, one-sided or easy. Actually, the whole process reminded me a bit of a Jenga tower — the classic game that requires players to delicately rearrange a tower of building blocks, one at a time, without damaging the tower’s ability to stand upright. One misstep can cause the entire thing to come tumbling down on itself. It’s an accurate metaphor. But make no mistake. This is not a game.”
Kelly began and ended with a message of gratitude to Kansas frontline workers including health-care professionals and first responders. She mentioned some examples of Kansans who have helped each other and people in other states during the pandemic.
“This is the spirit of generosity and grace that defines the people of this state. It’s what makes me so proud to be your governor. And this is the courage and resilience that will propel Kansas, to the stars, through difficulty. Once again, Ad Astra per Aspera. And to all the people of Kansas. God bless you, and God bless our great state of Kansas.”