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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas doctors are thanking Gov. Laura Kelly for issuing an emergency declaration on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency measure may help more severely ill patients in the Sunflower State.

The chief medical officer at HCA Midwest said the health system is predicting the number of COVID patients needing hospital care will double by February.

Kansas lawmakers have said they want to make sure the disaster declaration isn’t used for anything other than reducing regulations on the healthcare system.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, of Olathe, said lawmakers don’t support shutting down businesses or other government mandates.

But on Friday, doctors warned that with or without a mandate, businesses and schools could be forced to close if there’s not a return to mask wearing throughout the community.

“There is such rapid spread of omicron on top of delta that we’re going to see the ability to staff things drop like a rock,” said Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System.

“It’s not just hospitals that are not going to be able to staff, it will be restaurants. It will be schools. It will be the police force. It will be fire (departments). When you step back and look at it, the way to keep ourselves safe throughout our society, to keep the doors open, is to put a mask back on.”

The doctors said Kelly’s emergency declaration will allow hospitals to bring in retired military, paramedics and nursing staff to care for more patients than they are currently licensed to admit.

Health care workers also now will be allowed to perform other duties that might be outside their training or specialties.

Across the state line, hospital leaders in Missouri also have said an emergency declaration would be helpful in the Show-Me State.

But since Gov. Mike Parson just allowed Missouri’s state of emergency to expire a week ago, politically, it may be hard to bring it back so quickly without admitting that he may have made a mistake.