TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly called the actions of the Kansas Legislature a spectacle.
The GOP-controlled legislature passed legislation early Friday morning that would shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The bill also would shift control of the state’s pandemic response from Kelly to legislative leaders.
You can find the 25-page brief here.
Kelly called it the most embarrassing, irresponsible display of governing she has witnessed since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“Unfortunately, what happened in the Kansas legislature yesterday was simply indefensible from start to finish, and there is no way for me to sugarcoat that for Kansas,” she said.
According to Kelly, one lawmaker complained that paper airplanes were being thrown in the chamber during the important debate.
“Legislative leaders made no secret yesterday that their actions were politically motivated, and by the end of the day, we saw once again, why this is always poisonous to the process,” she said. “By the wee hours of the morning, legislators were literally screaming at one another during deliberations. It was truly, as one senator noted, a low point and the losers of this ordeal, will be the people of Kansas.”
Kelly said she has not had time to read all the elements of the sweeping legislation. She said she and her team will review it thoroughly before she decides whether to sign it or veto it.
She said she wants to get back to the fight against the coronavirus. She said she will continue to administer “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas,” which reopens Kansas businesses in phases.
Dr. Lee Norman, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, was also at the briefing and gave an update on the number of cases in Kansas, now at 8,958, and deaths, now at 185.
The KDHE said there have been 99 coronavirus clusters in Kansas. 51 of them are still active.
Both Norman and Kelly asked people to take precautions against the spread of the coronavirus over the Memorial Day weekend.
“This is a reminder that just because we are entering a new phase of reopening, the virus has not gone away,” said Norman. “People need to remain vigilant and manage their own preparedness.”
He asked that people wear masks when they are in public.
“When you’re outside without a mask, you don’t necessarily control your world,” said Norman. “You don’t necessarily control who’s going to be on the elevator with you and cough or sneeze. It’s really important to be able to take control and one of the ways you do that is with a mask.”
The KDHE secretary also talked about the legislature’s actions. He said he discussed it with the incident command team and the general feeling was one of disappointment.
“We try to remain separate from political processes, but what I want to do, I want to assure you that with every bit of energy we have, every breath we have, we will depoliticize this process and we will continue to do the prevention and public health work that we are expected to do,” said Norman.
The governor’s office sent guidance regarding Memorial Day. The following is allowed, according to “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas”:
- Have a gathering in your home with 15 or fewer individuals, not including those you live with.
- Use your backyard pool for any parties, so long as mass gathering restrictions are met.
- Have a drive-through parade, so long as no more than 15 individuals are outside the car and they are able to maintain social distancing.
- Go to a restaurant with your friends and family, so long as that business meets the necessary health and safety requirements.
- Engage in outdoor activities at parks or other public spaces, so long as social distancing and mass gathering requirements are met.
Here’s what you can’t do on Memorial Day according to the “Ad Astra” plan:
- Hold or attend an in-person fair, festival or parade.
- Use community, public and other non-backyard pools for parties or gatherings.
- Go to bars or nightclubs.
- Have ceremonies or gatherings that violate the mass gathering limit of 15 or more individuals when a 6-foot distance cannot be met, except for infrequent or incidental moments of contact.
Additional health tips include:
- Stay home if sick
- Practice social distancing whenever possible
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover cough and sneezes into an elbow or tissue
- Wear masks (especially in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain)
- Stay home if you or a loved one is considered high risk.
For those having parties or gatherings this weekend:
- Have cleaning supplies readily available
- Avoid using buffets and other self-service food stations
- Have individuals with gloves and masks serve food
- Avoid punchbowls or other communal drink stations
- Use disposable plate and utensils if unable to constantly clean dishes
- Plan outdoor activities rather than indoor ones
- Practice social distancing and maintain ventilation through your home by opening doors or windows if engaging in indoor activities.
For more information on health and safety guidance, or to see Governor Kelly’s reopening plan, visit the Kansas COVID-19 Response and Recovery website.
The governor will not have a news briefing on Memorial Day. Her next scheduled briefing is Wednesday, May 27.
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