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A Kansas Twist—Reopening Plans for Kansas Counties (June 19, 2020)

By Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., Charles Hunt, M.P.H., Sydney McClendon, Hina B. Shah, M.P.H., Linda J. Sheppard, J.D., Robert F. St. Peter, M.D. | June 19, 2020

A Kansas Twist—Reopening Plans for Kansas Counties (June 19, 2020)
Update (June 19, 2020): This edition of A Kansas Twist follows the rapidly changing status of reopening across all 105 counties in Kansas. Check back regularly as this blog will be updated to reflect information as it becomes available.
 
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As Kansas moves from spring to summer, an increasing number of counties have removed restrictions that had been in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. As of June 16, 25 of 105 Kansas counties had at least one restriction in place, and many of those counties have plans to either phase out remaining restrictions, or consider doing so, by next week.

The 25 Kansas counties that had at least one restriction still in place as of June 16 covered 883,202 Kansans, or 30.3 percent of the total population. Restrictions still in place as of June 16 were most commonly applied to mass gatherings and events, while some counties continued to be more restrictive across categories. As of June 16, the following restrictions were still in place by category: gathering size (23 counties), food service (5), retail (3), personal services (4), fitness centers/gyms/health clubs (3), indoor/outdoor leisure/entertainment activities (5) education/childcare/summer camps (4), mass events (12), swimming pools (4), enforcement provisions (2), and other (6). 

The state Ad Astra Plan — now a recommendation and no longer a “floor” for public health restrictions that counties must follow — recommended Phase Out to begin no earlier than June 22. 


A summary of reopening orders for the 25 counties with restrictions as of June 16 is shown in the table HERE.



Map updated June 22


NOTE: Information was collected via surveys of county officials, online searches for published orders and announcements on social media and local news sites. Our most recent rapid survey and online data search were conducted June 15-16 and focused on county phase out plans. Counties may have orders in place that were not identified by our approach and therefore are not identified properly.

(Update June 5, 2020):

Less than a month after Governor Kelly unveiled the Ad Astra Plan, which established a regulatory baseline for Kansas local governments to safely reopen, her veto on May 26 of House Bill 2054, and a new state of disaster emergency proclamation that same day, set into motion a flurry of special meetings across many Kansas counties to either put in place their own orders adopting a set of restrictions, establish recommendations and guidelines but without enacting any actual restrictions, or lift all restrictions. Furthermore, if counties took no action by May 27, then any existing restrictions tied to the Ad Astra plan automatically expired leading to a lifting of all restrictions in the county.

Kansas County Reopening Plans on or after May 27

Information was collected via surveys of county officials, online searches for published orders and announcements on social media and local news sites. Our most recent rapid survey and online data search were conducted May 27-June 3 and focused on reopening plans/actions on or after May 27. For our analysis, official actions that use only the language of guidance (e.g., “should,” or “recommend”) are not considered restrictions. Counties may have orders in place that were not identified by our approach and therefore are not identified properly. 


A summary of the reopening orders on or after May 27 in each of the 105 counties in Kansas is shown in a table HERE.  


Map updated June 11


The analysis shows that as of June 3, there were 39 counties that had adopted orders or other official actions on or after May 27 that impose restrictions. These restrictions covered 1,006,225 Kansans, or 35% percent of the total population. Sixty-six counties have no local restrictions in place, but many of them hadestablished recommendations or guidelines.

Restrictions among the 39 counties vary considerably. Some counties have imposed limited restrictions, such as limits on the size of mass gatherings and prohibiting self-service food and beverages, while others have kept certain types of businesses, such as bars, closed. Still other counties have adopted all or parts of the Ad Astra state plan, with the recommendations in it being implemented as required restrictions.

For descriptive purposes, the restrictions adopted by counties were grouped into ten categories: gathering size (38 counties), food service (20), retail (5), personal services (20), fitness centers/gyms/health clubs (20), indoor/outdoor leisure/entertainment activities (21), education-related (17), mass events (25), swimming pools (16), enforcement (3), and other (3) such as parameters for driver’s education and cruising.

NOTE: The information for this report was collected through a collaboration among the Kansas Health Institute, Kansas Association of Counties (KAC), Kansas Association of Local Health Departments (KALHD), Wichita State University and Public Health Law Center. This collaborative effort has tracked and provided summary information on COVID-19 reopen plans as the state moved through each reopening phase. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KEDM) also is collecting similar information and publishing data in an interactive map, available HERE. The two resources are complementary, and the main difference is the way county plans are categorized. The KDEM approach compares county actions (regardless of whether the action is in the form of restrictions or simply recommendations/guidelines) to the Ad Astra state plan, even after that plan was reduced to recommendations as described above. The approach in our analysis is to focus on whether counties had adopted any restrictions at all after the Ad Astra plan became just a set of guidelines.KHI will work with KDEM in an effort to better align efforts, reduce reporting burden on local officials and provide the best available information to the public.

(Update June 2, 2020):

As of May 22, 13 counties in Kansas had public health restrictions in place that exceeded those in Governor Kelly’s Ad Astra State Plan in effect at the time. The map below identifies those counties and the specific restrictions included in each county. The same information is available in table format by clicking here.

Effective with the Governor’s veto of House Bill 2054 on May 26, the guidance in the State Plan was no longer a “floor” for public health restrictions that counties must follow, but rather was reduced to recommendations for counties to consider in setting their own guidance. Now counties that want to have in place any restrictions, or even adopt the set of recommendations in the State Plan, must put in place their own orders. We are in the process of compiling information on county actions since the Governor’s veto on May 26 and anticipate having that information posted by June 5.

(Update May 29, 2020):

On May 26, Governor Kelly vetoed House Bill 2054, which would have limited the authorities of the governor and county health officers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Governor Kelly signed a new state disaster declaration, which allows continued coordination among state and federal partners, management and enforcement of the reopening process shifted to the 105 Kansas counties as of May 27. Governor Kelly also has ordered the State Legislature to return on June 3 for a special session to extend the latest disaster declaration and amend the Emergency Management Act in response to the pandemic.

Modified Phase Two

Prior to the legislature convening for the last day of the session, Governor Kelly had moved the state into modified Phase Two of the state reopening plan on May 22 under Executive Order 20-34, which she signed on May 19. Phase Two increased gathering size up to 15 individuals and allowed indoor leisure spaces such as theaters and bowling alleys, community centers and state-run casinos to open. Also, organized sports facilities, tournaments and practices were allowed to resume with some exceptions. Graduation ceremonies also were allowed with social distancing measures.

In collaboration with the Kansas Association of Counties (KAC), KHI administered a rapid survey to the 105 counties across the state to collect local response to modified Phase Two. All 105 Kansas counties responded to the survey, announced on social media or had published plans available. All but 13 counties followed the State Plan for modified Phase Two, although select public buildings were to remain closed in some counties otherwise adopting the State Plan. The 13 counties whose modified Phase Two was more stringent than the State Plan were home to 379,547 Kansans, or 13 percent of the state population.

As the state progressed through each phase in its reopening plan, fewer counties announced significant restrictions beyond those in the State Plan – from 50 counties (55 percent of the state population) in Phase One to 20 counties (20 percent of the state population) in Phase 1.5, and then to 13 counties (13 percent of the state population) in the modified Phase Two. 

Local Control

Now that the Stan Plan represents recommendations rather than orders, any county that wants to leave in place any restrictions from an earlier phase, or even adopt the recommendation in the State Plan, must adopt their own orders. Check back for more information as counties continue to determine their next steps.

(Update May 22, 2020):

On May 14, 2020, Governor Kelly signed Executive Order 20-31, which established a new Phase “1.5” to the Ad Astra: Plan to Reopen Kansas (“State Plan”). Phase 1.5 went into effect on May 18, 2020, and was to have expired May 26, 2020, which is when the statewide State of Disaster Emergency Proclamation relating to COVID-19 expires. However, on May 19, shortly after counties added Phase 1.5 to their reopen plans, Governor Kelly announced the state will move to a modified Phase Two on May 22.[HS1] [RSP2] 

The State Plan establishes a regulatory baseline for Kansas local governments relating to safety guidelines for reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and counties retain the ability to impose additional restrictions that are in the best interest of the health of their residents. To guide movement from phase to phase, the State Plan provides the metrics below related to disease spread, hospitals and deaths. While the new Phase 1.5 was not originally planned, the governor stated, “the daily rate of disease spread has not shown the downward trajectory necessary to move fully into Phase Two.”

Phase 1.5

In Phase 1.5, the State Plan allows personal service business such as salons, tattoo parlors and barbershops to open by appointment only or online check-in; fitness centers and health clubs to open, but not group classes or the locker room (except for restrooms); and commencement or graduation ceremonies to take place either face-to-face or drive-through, ensuring no more than 10 individuals are in the same area and social distancing is maintained.

There is growing recognition that within the state, the situation varies significantly across counties. In collaboration with the Kansas Association of Counties (KAC), KHI administered a rapid survey to all 105 counties to collect local response to the Governor’s new Phase 1.5. A total of 102 counties responded to the survey or had published plans available. Of these, 20 counties reported their plan was more stringent than the State Plan, representing 590,094 Kansans (20 percent of the total population). Note that closures of public buildings were not considered a restriction.  In comparison, in Phase One, 50 counties, accounting for 55 percent of the state population, had announced at least one significant restriction beyond those in the State Plan.

Modified Phase Two

On May 22, 2020, the state will move into a modified Phase Two, which increases gathering size up to 15 individuals, and allows indoor leisure spaces such as theaters and bowling alleys, community centers and state-run casinos to open. Also, organized sports facilities, tournaments and practices may resume with some exceptions. However, bars and nightclubs – which would have been allowed to open at 50 percent capacity under the original Phase Two – will remain closed, as will most swimming pools.

Check back for more information as counties implement plans for the new modified Phase Two.

(May 14, 2020): Reopening Kansas: National Guidelines, Local Decisions

As we near two months of living and working under significant safer-at-home orders, everyone’s attention is shifting to what is needed to safely reopen. There is an emerging consensus that in order to safely reopen we must have three things in place: adequate testing; the ability to conduct contact tracing; and supported isolation and quarantine. This edition of A Kansas Twist provides information on the national guidelines that have emerged, and how the state and individual counties are approaching reopening.The White House and a number of national organizations have produced guidelines to be considered as states reopen schools, businesses and society in general. KHI has produced a summary of 12 of the leading sets of guidelines presented in this side-by-side graphic, Summary of National Guidelines for Reopening the U.S.  (Download file)

While the Governor’s Ad Astra Plan to Reopen Kansas (State Plan), effective on May 4, established a regulatory baseline for Kansas local governments relating to safety guidelines while reopening business during the COVID-19 pandemic, counties retain the ability to impose additional restrictions that are in the best interest of the health of their residents. This acknowledges the growing recognition that within a state, the situation may vary significantly across regions and individual communities.

To help understand the variety of approaches being taken across the state, KHI has produced a summary of the reopening orders in each of the 105 counties in Kansas, Reopening Plans for Kansas Counties: Phase One (May 14).

The analysis shows that as of May 7, there were 63 counties that had implemented some elements more restrictive than the State Plan, covering 2.2 million Kansans (77 percent of the total population):

Thirteen (13) counties made changes only to the hours or services offered at county buildings and facilities, typically courthouses, libraries or county offices.

Fifty (50) counties, accounting for 55 percent of the state’s population, announced at least one significant reopening restriction beyond those in the State Plan. Three of these counties (Finney, Johnson and Wyandotte Counties) extended the entire statewide safer-at-home order that was in place prior to May 4.

The conditions in the reopening plans that differed from those in the State Plan, included one or more of the following in each of those 50 counties (see table)

Food Service (38 counties) – restrictions included one or more of the following:

  • prohibiting self-service food or beverage services (e.g., salad bars, buffets, fountain drink dispensers) (32)
  • limiting dine-in options (4)
  • limiting seating capacity (4)
  • requiring reservations (3)
  • requiring compliance with COVID-related guidelines (2)
  • restricting outside waiting lines (1).

Playground Equipment and Picnic Tables (18 counties) – restrictions prohibiting use.

Retail/Sales Activities (7 counties) – one or more restrictions including:

  • number of customers in retail space (3)
  • prohibiting door-to-door solicitation, garage sales or yard sales (3)
  • prohibiting dance studios (1)
  • requiring disinfecting shopping carts (1)
  • imposing a curfew on restaurant hours (1)
  • requiring a log of customers to facilitate contact tracing if needed (1).

Real Estate Activities (6 counties) – prohibiting open houses or requiring masks to be worn

Miscellaneous (5 counties) – conditions unique to only one county:

  • closing recreation programs (Wichita County)
  • prohibiting visitors to a specific senior living facility (Stevens County)
  • including persons over age 65 in the definition of high-risk individuals (Harvey County)
  • imposing a quarantine on individuals who travel to certain counties in Kansas with high case rates (Ellsworth County)
  • enforcement provision making violation of the orders a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and/or one year in jail (Republic County).

Phase Two of the Governor’s plan is scheduled to be implemented no sooner than May 18, Phase Three no sooner than June 1, and Phase Out no sooner than June 15. The Governor will base decisions about moving between phases on a variety of metrics outlined in the plan. Regardless of phase, the State Health Officer retains the authority to impose additional public health interventions in certain areas as determined necessary by the Officer.

The Governor’s plan also recommends that local governments monitor the following health criteria when determining if they should continue respective “stay-at-home” mandates or impose any additional restrictions, but does not include any requirements for doing so:

Disease Spread: stable or declining over a 14-day period (rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population);

Hospitals: decreasing number of new COVID-19 admissions (stable (flat) or a downward trajectory of the COVID-19 inpatient counts within a 14-day period);

Deaths: decreasing number of deaths (downward trajectory of COVID-19 deaths within a 14-day period).

NOTE: This information was collected via e-mail by the Kansas Association of Counties, searches for published orders, or announcements on social media or in a local newspaper. Counties that have announced restrictions and closures that differ from the State Plan are identified in the report. Counties may have orders in place that were not identified by this approach and therefore are not properly identified. This information will be monitored and updated periodically during the reopening process so check back regularly.

Additional Resources:

Governor Kelly’s Ad Astra Plan to Reopen Kansas issued under Executive Order 20-29 that became effective May 4, 2020 (State Plan)

Frequently Asked Questions

Industry Guidance on Reopening

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.