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Governor announces Kansas is moving into modified Phase 2 of reopening this Friday

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Governor Laura Kelly announced Kansas is ready to move forward with the next step of the phased-in reopening plan.

She said that the data about coronavirus in Kansas supports going to a modified Phased 2 on Friday, May 22.

Modified Phase 2

  • Mass gatherings restricted to 15 people or fewer
  • All activities slated for Phase 2 will be allowed to open, with the exception of bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools
  • State-owned casinos may open if they comply with KDHE guidelines
  • Arcades, trampoline parks, theaters, museums, bowling alleys and other leisure spaces may open
  • Organized sports tournaments and practices will be allowed but must adhere to guidelines and social distancing requirements laid out by the Kansas Recreation and Park Association
  • In-person group exercise classes will be allowed to begin with groups of no more than 15 at a time, locker rooms remain closed except for restroom facilities

Some places are still closed under Phase 2. They include large entertainment venues with capacities of 2,000 or more, fairs, festivals and parades.

“I trust that all Kansans will continue to place their own safety, health and well being, and that of their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers first and foremost as we continue reopening our state,” said Kelly. “We may be transitioning to Phase 2, but we still have a long way to go before arriving at anything bordering on normal in Kansas.”

She said the coronavirus numbers are trending in the right direction, but she said the threat is still present, especially for those who are in high risk categories.

“On the economic front, the toll of business closings and job losses has been staggering, which is why we must bring all forces to bear in getting Kansas back to work and our economy humming,” she said.

Kelly announced a SPARK Task Force. SPARK stands for “Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas.”

She said the team will be comprised of business and community leaders from across Kansas.

Kelly said that Phase 3 of the reopening plan will begin Monday, June 8 if the data supports it.

The governor made her announcement the day before she meets with President Donald Trump at the White House.

With Memorial Day coming this weekend, the state also issued detailed guidance for commemorating the holiday in new report titled, “Safe Memorial Day Guidance”.

Full text of Governor Kelly’s announcement

Good afternoon, everybody. Just a few minutes ago, a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 190th Air Refueling Wing, based here in Topeka, flew over the statehouse as part of Operation Kansas Strong. The tanker flew over five locations in Topeka today. And before that, they were in Emporia, Manhattan and Lawrence in a salute to our dedicated healthcare staff, our first responders and other frontline workers battling COVID-19.

Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary Norman, will not be joining me today because he’s part of Operation Kansas Strong, which was built into a previously scheduled KC-135 refueling mission. So we have Colonel Lee Norman in uniform and onboard the aircraft in his military role as State Surgeon for the Kansas Army National Guard. While in flight, he is making contact with several hospitals to offer our sincere thanks for their dedication and sacrifice during this pandemic. Everyone on the frontlines has been absolutely heroic in helping Kansans move forward in the midst of this public health crisis.

And with that, let’s move on to discussing the state reopening plan.

As I’ve said all along, I’m relying on the data and the science to tell us how quickly or slowly we open up our economy. The dates we are looking to are targets for us to move towards, but we will not be bound to them if the data reflect a different view on the ground. Right now, the data tells us it is time for another step forward in opening as quickly as possible but still doing it as safely as possible.

Therefore, as of this Friday, May 22, Kansas will officially move into a slightly modified Phase Two of our reopening plan. By being proactive and aggressive in our initial response, we’ve managed to stave off some of the worst aspects of this disease that we’ve seen take hold in other states. Our coronavirus-driven hospitalization and death rates has steadily fallen and we’ve ramped up testing needed to identify who’s infected before they unknowingly spread the disease. Our approach, emphasizing social distancing, has helped drive encouraging trends on the metrics we’re watching. Namely, the disease spread, testing, hospitalization and death rates and personal protective equipment availability. I’m encouraged by our progress.

We can and will balance Kansas’ individual health and safety with the state’s economic health as we move into Phase Two.

So here are the specifics.

During Phase Two, a mass gathering restriction of 15 people or fewer will be in place. All businesses and activities slated for Phase Two will be allowed to open with the exception of bars, nightclubs, and swimming pools. That means state-owned casinos may open if they comply with KDHE guidelines. Leisure spaces such as arcades, trampoline parks, theaters, museums, bowling alleys all may open on Friday.

Organized sports tournaments and practices will be allowed to begin on Friday but must adhere to the guidelines and social assistance requirements laid out by the Kansas Recreation and Park Association in consultation with numerous private sports operatives, both adult and you.

What’s still closed during Phase Two? Large entertainment venues with capacities of 2,000 or more, fairs, festivals and parades, summer camps that are not state-licensed childcare programs.

Assuming we continue with the current trends, we expect Phase Three to begin on Monday, June 8, with a mass gathering limit of 45.

As has been the case since the statewide stay-at-home order was lifted, local authorities have the latitude to address their own unique situations, as long as those situations move towards more restrictions, not less. And I trust that all Kansans will continue to place their own safety, health and wellbeing and that of their family, friends, neighbors and coworkers first and foremost, as we continue reopening our state.

We may be transitioning to Phase Two, but we still have a long way to go before arriving at anything bordering on normal.

Kansans should continue to wear masks, wash hands frequently and stay home if feeling sick or running a temperature. The trend lines are going in the right direction but the threat is still very much present, especially if you are a member of a high-risk category. And even if you are not part of a high-risk category, COVID-19 still remains a very serious threat.

What happened recently at Lake Perry is a prime example of how things can spin rapidly out of control if people defy the guidelines. We know a gathering at Lake Perry in the midst of the stay-at-home order led to a wave of sickness, at least 10 people fell ill — a number that’s expected to grow. And there are many others in quarantine. This serious situation delivers a sobering reminder of how the virus can aggressively spread. It is why social distancing is important, as is adherence to other public health guidelines.

As Kansas moves forward, we have much to do on the economic front. The toll of business closings and job losses has been staggering, which is why we must bring all forces to bear in getting Kansas back to work and our economy humming once again.

I’m pleased to announce the appointment of the state’s SPARK Task Force. SPARK stands for Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas. Cheryl Harrison-Lee will be the executive director of the Recovery Office and Lyle Butler of Manhattan will serve as the chair of the task force. We will distribute a full list of task force membership right after this press conference and we will additionally publish it online.

I can tell you right now, though, that the executive committee of that task force will be a five-member board, comprised of Lyle Butler from Manhattan, Jill Docking of Wichita, Tom Bell of Topeka, Alise Martiny, of Shawnee and Senator Jim Denning of Overland Park. The rest of the task force is comprised of public and private sector leaders. A quarter of those positions will be members of the legislature.

The team is bipartisan and includes industry leaders from across Kansas. Our recovery effort must serve both urban and rural areas and all sectors of the economy. I’m grateful that our team membership reflects as much and I want to thank these leaders for their willingness to serve in such challenging times. The health and economic challenges COVID-19 inflicted on our state are truly unprecedented and we must use our collective talents to develop strategies to not only regain what we’ve lost but to build a better, more inclusive and resilient economy.

This team will be responsible for the statewide distribution of the Federal Cares Act funding. And while we will get funds out the door as quickly as possible, especially to our cities and counties to cover their COVID-19 expenses, we ultimately want these investments to contribute to the long-term prosperity and economic sustainability of our state. The task force’s process will be thoughtful, collaborative, and accountable. We structured the recovery office in this very way. Over the coming days the public will be able to access information about the office by going to covid.ks.gov.

In addition to the five-member executive committee and the 15-member steering committee there will be three subcommittees comprised of the 15 members of the steering committee. The subcommittee’s will focus on communication and engagement, finance and policy development and implementation and accountability.

While we are announcing the recovery team today, I want to ensure Kansans that much work is already underway to fuel our recovery efforts.

For example, last week I joined KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz to announce 40 major highway projects moving into the development pipeline, a critical employment tool for the short term and long term economic growth of our state.

More good news, economically speaking, came yesterday from Thermo Fisher Scientific in Lenexa, which plans to build a new facility and add hundreds of jobs in production of highly specialized viral transport media. Actually a tube used to hold the swab after a patient is sampled, preserving the sample for lab testing. The Lenexa plant is currently producing about 1.5 million of these VTM tubes each week. In order to meet nationwide demand, Thermo Fisher is expanding its operation and will add nearly 300 employees to bolster a team of more than 500 currently at work in Lenexa that will allow them to meet the 3.85 million tubes per week that are needed. From July through December, federal Health and Human Services will purchase at least 100 million VTM tubes and potentially as many as 170 million. Thermo Fisher Scientific is living up to its reputation as a leader in making the world healthier, cleaner and safer. VTM effort is just one of the company’s many aspects of pandemic response. I sincerely appreciate their efforts in helping us combat COVID-19 and the important work they’re doing taking place right here in Kansas.

Senate President Susan Wagle responded to Governor Kelly’s Modified Phase Two via Twitter Tuesday saying — “Today the governor made the decision to move the state into what amounts to Phase 1.75 of her plan to reopen Kansas. Thank you to our Senate Committees and the brave Kansans who testified for pushing the decision forward. It’s time to stop dragging the reopening out! #FreeKansas

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