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Kansas residents hunker down, economic fallout continues

Coronavirus in Kansas

Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health and environment, answers questions about the coronavirus pandemic as Gov. Laura Kelly watches during a news conference, Monday, March 23, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Six counties with about 1 million of the state’s 2.9 million residents have issued shelter-in-place orders and Kelly says she’s going to impose stricter rules for public gatherings. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Aircraft parts maker Spirit Aerosystems temporarily suspended production work for Boeing at its Wichita facility Tuesday amid an outbreak of the coronavirus that continues to send shock waves through the economy and has about one-third of Kansas residents under a shelter-in-place order.

The move came after Boeing announced Monday that it was suspending operations at its Seattle area facilities.

Meanwhile, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday that she will tighten restrictions on public gatherings of more than 10 people. Kelly last week banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

Kelly said she is not yet issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order as governors have done in some other states, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York, because 89 of Kansas’ 105 counties had yet to see a confirmed coronavirus case as of Monday morning. But she warned that such an order could become “unavoidable in the coming days.”

However, five counties with about 1 million of the state’s 2.9 million residents were telling residents to stay home starting Tuesday, except for essential business, such as buying food or seeking medical care. They include Johnson County, the state’s most populous county; three other neighboring counties in or touching the Kansas City area; and Douglas County, home to the main University of Kansas campus.

A sixth county, Doniphan County in the state’s northeast corner, also was imposing a stay-at-home order starting Thursday and lasting through April 6.

And the Sedgwick County Commission voted 3-2 on Monday to recommend a stay-at-home order, with the county health officer making the final decision. Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city of Wichita, has more than 510,000 residents, so if it told residents to stay at home, more than half of Kansas’ population would be under such an order.

Kansas has confirmed almost 80 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That’s an increase of at least 15 since Sunday. It has had two COVID-19-related deaths, one in Johnson County and the other in neighboring Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

The Wyandotte County district attorney’s office sought to reassure immigrants who are in the county illegally, saying in a news release that they won’t be arrested or detained for seeking medical help.

In neighboring Johnson County, leaders put out a plea for donated cloth masks and noted that some businesses are offering free fabric to make masks.

“COVID-19 is continuing to put a strain on the health care system,” said Dan Robeson, deputy director of Johnson County Emergency Management, in a statement. “We have requested additional masks, but supply is short everywhere, and we must ensure health workers are safe as they serve those who are ill.”

The group GO Topeka also announced Monday the creation of the “HOST Relief Program” to provide up to $2 million in economic stimulus for businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.

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