Local governments differ on reopening plans after Gov. Kelly scraps mandatory phases

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday that she’s giving some control back to the counties, and her statewide restrictions will expire at the end of the day.

But now local municipalities differ on how they’ll implementing COVID-19 restrictions.

Officials in Wyandotte and Douglas counties said that they plan to continue with the state’s Phase 2 guidelines for the time being.

Johnson County, however, will not impose additional limits on businesses. Instead, the county is now encouraging voluntary compliance with the Ad Astra plan.

Kelly changed her mandate for a phased reopening into a set of recommendations. The move leaves decisions about how and when to reopen up to each of the state’s 105 counties.

Shortly after the announcement, Wyandotte County officials announced the Phase 2 restrictions would remain in place at least until June 8.

RELATED: Kansas Gov. Kelly vetoes bill limiting her emergency powers

“The Health Order we issued on May 20 remains in effect, and the Public Health Department strongly encourages everyone to continue the practices that have helped us slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. Erin Corriveau, Deputy Medical Officer.

“Wyandotte County has a significant number of residents who are at high risk from a COVID-19 infection. The decisions we make every day to wear a mask, wash our hands, and practice social distancing help protect the most vulnerable members of our community and our friends, families, and neighbors.”

Douglas County followed suit, issuing a local order that lasts until June 8.

“This gives people of Douglas County the message that we’re going to stick with the current public health measures to guard against the spread of COVID-19 as part of a phased reopening, and we think it’s a good plan that is working in our area,” Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino said.

Phase 2 restrictions include a ban on mass gatherings of more than 15 people. Nightclubs, large entertainment venues, fairs, festivals, parades and most swimming pools will remain closed under the plan.

Although compliance with Phase 2 of Kelly’s Ad Astra plan is strongly encouraged, Johnson County officials said they won’t mandate it.

“We cannot stress highly enough the importance of residents and businesses continuing to follow the guidance of the Ad Astra plan,” Johnson County Local Health Officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster said. “This will give us the time we need to monitor the data and see the impact of loosening restrictions, reopening businesses and the gatherings that occurred over the Memorial Day weekend.”

Kansas has seen its reported coronavirus cases increase by 76% since the statewide-stay-at-home order expired three weeks ago, to more than 9,200 as of Monday, the state health department said.

Much of the increase has been driven by outbreaks among employees of meatpacking plants and at the state prison in Lansing.

Kansas reports 188 COVID-19-related deaths.

In addition to announcing that compliance with the Ad Astra plan would become voluntary, Kelly vetoed a bill that would have limited her emergency powers and called a special legislative session starting June 3.

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