Wyandotte County to continue following Kansas Phase 2 reopening plan

Local health order follows Ad Astra Phase 2

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced that the Ad Astra Reopening plan has transitioned away from being a statewide requirement and into a statewide guidance document. Gov. Kelly further announced that county health officers remain empowered to issue local orders adopting the Ad Astra Reopening plan if they choose.

The health order signed by the Unified Government’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Greiner, on May 20, adopting Phase 2 of the Ad Astra Reopening plan, remains in effect in Wyandotte County, according to a UG spokesman. The county will not need to issue another order on following the plan this week.

“The health order we issued on May 20 remains in effect, and the Public Health Department strongly encourages everyone to continue the practices that have helped us slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer. “Wyandotte County has a significant number of residents who are at high risk from a COVID-19 infection. The decisions we make every day to wear a mask, wash our hands, and practice social distancing help protect the most vulnerable members of our community and our friends, families, and neighbors.”

Wyandotte County will continue to follow the state’s Phase 2 guidance until at least June 8, 2020. The Phase 2 plan is available to view online at wycokck.org/COVID-19 under the “ReStart WyCo” tab or on the state website at covid.ks.gov.

“Wyandotte County will maintain a balanced approach to further relaxation of the health order, and continue to rely on high quality data as our guide,” Mayor David Alvey said in the news release. “No matter what political battles rage at the state level, our fight has been and will continue to be against the novel Coronavirus. We will restrict, or relax, as much as is necessary to prevent overwhelming first responders and our health care system, while simultaneously working to re-open our community at the appropriate time.”

Health officials: Reducing exposure remains the best defense against COVID-19

COVID-19 remains a threat in Wyandotte County, and residents, businesses, and visitors are reminded to be cautious, health officials stated. If businesses can continue to operate remotely, they are strongly encouraged to do so. The COVID-19 virus is still present in our community and minimizing exposure by working remotely continues to be a recommended strategy for limiting its spread.

Vulnerable populations, including people over 60 years old, individuals who have compromised immune systems, or who have underlying medical conditions should avoid close contact with others by practicing social distancing as much as is possible. The Public Health Department recommends wearing a mask or face-covering in public.

Under the Kansas Phase 2 plan, mass gatherings (where individuals are in one location and cannot maintain proper social distancing) of more than 15 people are prohibited. Other guidance of the Kansas Phase 2 plan includes:

  • Individuals are encouraged to wear masks in public settings.
  • When in public, people should maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others (not including people who reside together).
  • Businesses can open if they can maintain at least six feet of distance between consumers.
  • Restaurants or dining establishments can meet this requirement by using physical barriers to present the spread of virus between individual customers or groups of seated customers.
  • Casinos (non-tribal) may reopen if they comply with uniform guidelines approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
  • Most activities and venues may re-open as long as they can maintain at least six feet of distance between individuals or groups and follow proper cleaning and public health practices.
  • Exceptions to the activities and venues reopening:
  • Outdoor and indoor entertainment venues with a capacity of 2,000 or more people
  • Fairs, festivals, carnivals, and parades
  • Summer camps
  • Public swimming pools
  • Bars and nightclubs excluding already operating curbside and carryout services

Residents, businesses, and visitors with questions about this guidance should contact 3-1-1.

According to the spokesman, Wyandotte County is aligning its advice with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in urging self-quarantining for anyone who has been in close contact with others at pool parties and bars over Memorial Day weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks.

When will we move to the next phase?

Phase 2 will remain in effect until at least June 8. County health officials will continue to monitor key data on the status of COVID-19 to determine next steps in the community’s re-opening process. Those metrics include:

  • The number of hospitalizations and deaths in Wyandotte County and surrounding area hospitals over a 14-day period, and
  • The percentage of positive tests over a 14-day period.

Why a phased approach to reopening?

Wyandotte County’s phased approach is designed to ensure two things:

  • That local hospitals are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
  • That vulnerable populations, including those over 60 years old, individuals who have compromised immune systems, or those who have underlying medical conditions are protected.

Protecting the health and wellness of everyone in the community, and especially our vulnerable populations, remains a top priority in Wyandotte County. The county has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, and our recovery process must include health protections for residents, businesses, and visitors. The recovery process will include a systematic and disciplined approach to re-opening based on what the data tells us about the spread of COVID-19 in Wyandotte County.

Residents with questions about the Phase 2 plan should contact 3-1-1 or visit the “ReStart WyCo” tab available at wycokck.org/COVID-19 . To learn more about the county’s COVID-19 response, access important FAQs, and view additional information, visit wycokck.org/COVID-19.

  • Information from UG Health Department

The UG’s COVID-19 information page is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

Wyandotte County is under the state’s Phase 2 plan at covid.ks.gov.

The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-FAQ_5.19.2020_Final.pdf.

Additional guidelines from the governor’s office about Phase 2 are at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/AdAstraUpdate519.pdf.

Test sites are listed at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

Kansas counties in charge of COVID-19 restrictions after Gov. Kelly vetoes emergency powers bill

The state’s plan to phase out economic restrictions intended to control the spread of COVID-19 will become voluntary with the governor’s veto of a key bill. Rules will now be left to county officials.

by Stephen Koranda and Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Topeka, Kansas — Kansas no longer will impose a statewide phased-in reopening plan, Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.

In deciding to veto a bill that would have restricted her powers to respond to the coronavirus, she issued a new emergency declaration.

“This legislation creates more problems than it solves,” Gov. Kelly said. She argued it would ultimately delay coronavirus aid from the federal government. “This would only prolong the economic pain of this crisis.”

Gov. Kelly’s new order makes her phase-out of the economic shutdown and limits on mass gatherings an advisory guidebook for county officials — not a statewide command.

She also will call the Legislature into a special session on June 3 to extend the new emergency declaration.

The Democratic governor heaped criticism on Republican leaders of the Legislature, lawmakers whom she said made “rushed and haphazard” changes to the law that gave her the emergency powers to impose a statewide shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Kelly said the legislation was constitutionally dubious. That meant, Gov. Kelly contended, that if she signed the bill, “it would have put the state at risk for additional legal battles.

“More importantly,” she said, “it would have hindered our response to this crisis.”

Republican lawmakers pulled an all-nighter last week to clamp down on Kelly’s authority after weeks of criticism that she overstepped in shutting down businesses and didn’t reopen quickly enough.

That put Gov. Kelly in a tough spot, because the extension of her emergency declaration, which expires at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, was tied to provisions that gave lawmakers more oversight over actions she might need to take in pandemics or disaster situations.

“This new declaration is not ideal,” Gov. Kelly said. “It is a direct result of the political games that had been played up to this point.”

Some lawmakers cautioned last week that they were on shaky legal ground because the resolution that brought the Legislature back into session had a midnight Thursday ending date.

“Anything that we do from here on out, we’re going to get sued on,” Republican Rep. Mark Samsel said in the early hours of Friday morning.

On Tuesday, Republican leaders in the Kansas House issued a joint statement after the governor’s announcement saying the sudden change in policy creates “unnecessary confusion about the status of the current disaster declaration, what orders are still in place, and what Kansans can expect going forward.”

Senate President Susan Wagle, who’s clashed most directly with Gov. Kelly, said the decision to leave restrictions to county rules makes sense.

“We’ve been saying it all along,” the Wichita Republican said in a news release, “one size doesn’t fit all.”

Kansas has more than 9,200 cases of COVID-19, with 800 people needing hospitalization and 188 people dead. Five counties make up more than half of the state’s cases: Finney, Ford, Leavenworth, Seward and Wyandotte.

While Gov. Kelly said she briefed county leaders on a conference call this morning, several counties did not immediately respond to the Kansas News Services’ requests for comment on how they’d move forward. Sedgwick County has called a Wednesday meeting to discuss the changes.

Wyandotte County officials said late Tuesday they will stick the Phase 2 plan set out by Kelly. That will stay in effect until June 8, Mayor David Alvey said.

“No matter what political battles rage at the state level, our fight has been and will continue to be against the novel coronavirus,” Mayor Alvey said. “We will restrict, or relax, as much as is necessary to prevent overwhelming first responders and our health care system, while simultaneously working to re-open our community at the appropriate time.”

Dr. Erin Corriveau, Wyandotte County’s deputy medical officer, said the decision focused on the “significant number of residents who are at high risk from a COVID-19 infection.” The county has 1,270 confirmed cases and 72 deaths, according to the health department’s website.

Gov. Kelly is calling the Legislature back to Topeka on June 3 to work on the state’s coronavirus response, but lawmakers aren’t barred from taking up other topics. The session potentially gives issues that stalled another chance, like Medicaid expansion and a constitutional amendment on abortion.

Gov. Kelly said having some guidelines in place to phase in the reopening of businesses would protect the state from more dire consequences that would follow future surges in the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the legislation she vetoed, she would have needed to seek approval from lawmakers for keeping certain businesses closed, and orders wouldn’t have been enforced with criminal charges, only fines. The legislation also could have given county governments leeway to approve less strict requirements for gatherings and businesses.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt previously said Gov. Kelly may not have had the authority to issue additional declarations, though his opinion is not legally binding.

Panels of lawmakers also would have controlled more than $1.25 billion in federal aid. The veto means, for now, the authority to spend that money will stay in Kelly’s administration.

Any new orders related to the coronavirus would have been subject to review by legislative leaders within 24 hours.

KCUR reporter Peggy Lowe contributed to this story.

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to

See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2020-05-26/kansas-counties-in-charge-of-covid-19-restrictions-after-gov-kelly-vetoes-emergency-powers-bill

Kansans with close contacts at Ozarks swimming parties asked to self-quarantine

Wyandotte County reported 1,272 positive COVID-19 cases at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday, and 72 deaths. (From UG COVID-19 webpage)

Anyone from Kansas who traveled to the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, over Memorial Day weekend and did not use protective measures should voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Photos of large crowds not wearing masks and not socially distancing at pool parties and bars at the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend have been widely published throughout the nation, sparking reaction from health officials.

Known as a vacation spot for Kansas City area and St. Louis area residents, the Lake of the Ozarks attracted large crowds over the holiday weekend.

Today, the Kansas secretary of health urged people who traveled there without using protective measures such as masks and six feet of social distancing to self-quarantine.

“The reckless behavior displayed during this weekend risks setting our community back substantially for the progress we’ve already made in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE secretary, said in a news release. “If you traveled to Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend, we urge you to act responsibly and self-quarantine to protect your neighbors, co-workers and family.”

While Lake of the Ozarks is not currently on the Kansas mandated travel list, KDHE urges those who traveled over the Memorial Day weekend to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to Kansas, according to the KDHE statement.

At a news conference Tuesday morning from the University of Kansas Health System, Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System, said his first reaction was that the gathering at the Lake of the Ozarks was irresponsible.

There are ways to be social with families, and that includes being outside with social distancing, he said.

“We know that COVID likes to find susceptible hosts. We know it’s very easy to spread from one person to another when there are people close to one another. So that’s a very concerning aspect,” he said.

Dr. Hawkinson said he thought self-quarantining for those who attended crowded swimming parties was a good request. He said personal responsibility for that part might not happen.

“That is why, moving forward, especially wearing masks will be important,” Dr. Hawkinson said, especially if people are presymptomatic and asymptomatic. Masks will help cut down risk if people are not going to be self-isolating and self-quarantining, he added.

Contact tracing will be important, he said. Some county health departments have been overwhelmed and have a lack of resources, he added. In addition, what’s important will be the ability to get tests and test people who are presymptomatic, asymptomatic or have symptoms, he said.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the KU Health System, said for people who were there, the way they can keep other people safe now is to wear a mask. If they’re around others, they need to make sure people around them wear a mask, he added.

“Hopefully, folks will wake up the day after and think, maybe I didn’t make the best choices right then,” Dr. Stites said. “And then they’ll take it a little more seriously.”

When people go home and are around their parents and grandparents, those relatives are the ones who are going to be at risk, he said. There may be deaths in the younger population, but it’s concentrated in the older population, he added.

Dr. Hawkinson said even if only 2 to 5 percent of the population have COVID-19, if there 2 to 5 percent are in that crowd, it can spread exponentially.

“I don’t think the sun, the pool and the alcohol are going to prevent the spread of the virus,” Dr. Stites said.

The doctors also discussed reopening the University of Kansas campus and restarting sports, and what would be necessary to do that.

Dr. Douglas Girod, KU chancellor, said at the news conference that they are planning to reopen slowly and safely. Some really large gatherings of people may not be able to happen, he said.

They are making plans for reopening, but he said they realize those plans can change from week to week, based on new information that becomes available. They are planning to reopen in a safe way.

Dr. Girod said KU is ramping up its capability for testing on campus. Contact tracing will be important particularly in the dorms, he said.

The university plans to open face-to-face, he said, but if something happens in the fall like what happened in the spring, they might have to shift again. The university used remote learning in the spring.

Jeff Long, KU athletic director, said at the news conference that they have a timeline for reopening. Although it is all subject to change depending on circumstances, they are planning to let the first group of student athletes return to voluntary workouts at KU facilities on June 15; the rest of fall sports on July 1; and men’s and women’s basketball students on July 15.

When student athletes return, they will be wearing masks, he said.

Dr. Stites said that people may just be tired of staying at home and want to go back to normal, but it is not the time for events such as swimming parties. He recommended that people wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, cough in their elbows and stay home when sick.

Dr. Hawkinson reported 20 COVID-19 patients at KU Health System on Tuesday, down from 24 on Friday. There were six patients in the intensive care unit, with three on ventilators, he said.

The Wyandotte County COVID-19 webpage today reported 1,272 cases, at 11:55 a.m. May 26. There were 72 deaths, up from 1,255 cases reported Saturday. There was one more death than Saturday.

The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/301551934340833/?v=301551934340833.

The UG’s COVID-19 information page is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.

Wyandotte County is under the state’s Phase 2 plan at covid.ks.gov.

The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-FAQ_5.19.2020_Final.pdf.

The state has an information page about what activities are safe on Memorial Day weekend, at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Safe-Memorial-Day-Guidance-5.19_Final.pdf.

Additional guidelines from the governor’s office about Phase 2 are at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/AdAstraUpdate519.pdf.

Test sites are listed at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.

The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.