Gov. Laura Kelly issued Executive Order No. 20-24 on Thursday, which extends the duration of the state’s stay-at-home order established in E.O. #20-16 to expire on midnight May 3 — extending the order that was to expire this weekend by two weeks.
“Cases of COVID-19 continue to increase and have spread to additional counties in Kansas. Extending the stay-home order will keep Kansans safe as we work to fight this pandemic,” Kelly said. “While we won’t be able to lift all restrictions on mass gatherings overnight, we will continue to develop mitigation efforts so Kansans, their families and businesses can plan for the future.”
She announced the move Wednesday during a news conference in which she said it was important to see a reduction in COVID-19 infections for a two-week period before easing restrictions. The crisis is expected to peak in Kansas in late April.
The governor said it has become clear that no state will be safe from the pandemic until a vaccine is available, an indication that the crisis could drag on for another year. Broader testing will help guide decisions in the coming weeks.
“It's not going to be simply throw the doors wide open, everybody go rush out and do the things you used to do,“ Kelly said. ”There will be some things that will be safer to go do initially.“
Kelly’s emergency powers are set to expire May 1, pending an extension from the State Finance Council.
It remains unclear whether legislators are willing to extend the state of emergency or, in the alternative, lose access to federal funding and let all of the governor’s executive orders responding to the coronavirus expire.
“We're trying to work this out,“ Kelly said. ”We're trying to work in collaboration with the Legislature. We don't want these constant battles going on.”
The action was taken in collaboration with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson as well as Kansas City metro leaders. The governor believes a regional approach will reduce confusion and help keep communities safe on both sides of the state line. Kelly also has been involved in discussion with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as a way to coordinate a plan for western Kansas.
According to the governor’s office, between now and May 3, Kelly also will consult with business leaders, health experts, economists and other industry and community leaders to determine the best path forward beyond that point, and re-open the Kansas economy safely and effectively.
On Wednesday, Kelly announced the state will be “highly focused” on expanding testing capacity over the next two weeks so that rapid testing, contact tracing and isolation efforts can be used to prevent community spread and avoid overwhelming local health care providers.
— The Topeka Capital Journal contributed to this report.