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A Kansas Twist—Reopening Kansas (May 22, 2020)

By Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., Charles Hunt, M.P.H., Hina B. Shah, M.P.H., Linda J. Sheppard, J.D., Robert F. St. Peter, M.D. | May 22, 2020

A Kansas Twist—Reopening Kansas (May 22, 2020)
Update (May 22, 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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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.