As the state of Kansas reaches nearly 1,500 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, Gov. Laura Kelly extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 3.
The stay-at-home order was set to expire at midnight on Sunday, April 19. However, Kansas’ cases are still on the rise, Kelly said in her regular press briefing on Wednesday.
Both internal and external forecasts put the peak between April 19 and April 29, Kelly said, but internal modeling indicates the peak will occur after April 19.
When asked about reopening Kansas’ economy and lifting social distancing measures, Kelly said it will be a gradual process that will involve insight from public health experts.
“If we don’t do this right, we will do more damage to the economy,” Kelly said. “This is a case where if we do rush it, we will end up doing more harm, whereas if we take it slowly, cautiously, we’ll win that race and we’ll be better off in the long run.”
Kelly said a 14-day reduction in cases in the state should occur before social gathering restrictions are relaxed.
“We seem to deal in 14-day increments with this virus,” Kelly said.
The decision to extend the stay-at-home order comes in tandem with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Kansas City area mayors to prevent confusion about protocols in the region. Coordinating a regional effort with Colorado and Western Kansas is on the table, too, as Kelly said she has been in contact with Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
Expanding the state’s testing capacity is one of the goals during this time period, Kelly said. Starting Thursday, Sedgwick and Thomas counties will begin expanded testing, which is already in underway in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties, said Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Finney County will begin expanded testing on Monday.
Norman said the state is also recruiting 400 volunteer contact tracers to assist with ring tracing measures for positive COVID-19 cases, wherein people potentially exposed to a positive case are notified of their risk.
Kelly said when the state does eventually lift its stay-at-home order, local governments are able to keep their own stay-at-home orders in place longer if necessary.