TOPEKA (AP) — As a statewide stay-at-home order took effect Monday, President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Kansas.
Trump's order allows for federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release Monday from the White House.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly decided to issue the stay-at-home order for all 2.9 million Kansas residents as the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and COVID-19-related deaths continued to grow.
State health officials said Sunday that Kansas has 319 cases in 35 of the state's 105 counties, with the number growing from Saturday by 58, or 22%. State and local officials have reported seven COVID-19-related deaths, with the latest a man in his 90s, according to The Kansas City Star.
It helped Kelly's case with the Republican-controlled Legislature that the exceptions in her order for “essential” outside-the-home activities include religious worship and buying, selling and manufacturing guns and ammunition. Other exceptions allow people to buy food and get medical care.
The Legislature's top seven leaders, five of them Republicans, have the power to revoke her orders, but no one spoke against her stay-at-home directive during a meeting of top lawmakers Sunday. That allowed the order to take effect early Monday. It is to remain in force until at least April 19.
“You always want to balance your safety with rights," said House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe in Johnson County, which has more than 100 confirmed cases. “We're continually trying to thread a needle.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the state's emergency management director, told the legislative leaders that the stay-at-home order is “the best thing we can do."
Kelly Sommers, director of the Kansas State Nurses Association, said nurses have indicated that a shortage of personal protective equipment was the top concern and she noted that some are “having to be judicious on how they use those supplies.”
Like other hospitals in the region, the University of Kansas Health System has delayed non-emergency surgeries and curtailed outpatient visits to conserve supplies.