With COVID-19 cases declining in KC, leaders say reopening plan will help stop outbreaks

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mayor Quinton Lucas unveiled the first phase of Kansas City’s reopening Wednesday. It allows for some businesses to open as early as May 6, but with strict guidelines.

The order, put together in large part by Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer, follows a 10/10/10 rule.

Lucas calls the rule “good guidelines that tell people where we are going but most importantly also address the very clear and the very important public health concern.”

Reported COVID-19 cases have been on the decline in Kansas City since April 6, thanks to compliance to the stay-at-home order.

“It isn’t because of some randomness. It isn’t because we’re special or because of anything other than the fact that all of the important steps that we have taken over the last six weeks have lead to fewer infections have lead to fewer hospitalizations and have saved lives,” Lucas said.

On May 6, nonessential businesses that don’t serve the public, like factories, may open but must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Businesses that serve the public are staggered. 

Those that serve a small number of people, like florists, nail and hair salons, and small retail shops may also open May 6.

Businesses that serve the larger public, including restaurants and bars, museums and movie theaters must wait until May 15.

All businesses serving the public must provide masks to employees and follow the 10/10/10 rule.

That means the number of people allowed at those businesses is 10% of building occupancy or 10 people, whichever is greater. That number includes customers and employees.

Additionally, sign-ins are required for anyone visiting a business for more than 10 minutes, which officials said is crucial. It means if people are exposed to someone with the virus, the health department will know exactly who was in the business at the same time.

“That will help us stop an outbreak much more rapidly,” Archer said.

Archer believes there will be outbreak and said containing them and increasing testing will be the keys to moving forward.

His best guess is that just 1% of the population has been tested for COVID-19, but that is just an estimate.

To get a better handle on infection rates, Kansas City should be testing 750 people a day but has only had enough tests to do about 100 a day.

“A lot of people, including right here in this area, probably have the virus now and don’t know it and are potential spreaders of the disease,” Archer said at Wednesday’s news conference. “So unless we do a lot more testing, we can’t stop those outbreaks.”

Under the Kansas City order, anyone who does not feel comfortable going to work between May 6 and May 15 can not be fired. Additional guidelines will be imposed on businesses that serve the larger public.

To continue on the path back to “normal,” it will take everyone’s help. If infections, hospitalizations and deaths start to go in the wrong direction, we will be shut down again, officials said. 

KC civic groups have partnered to help businesses through the reopening.

It’s called Safe Return KC, and it recommends guidelines and resources for responsible re-entry to the workplace. The recommendations are a staged road map to balance business with community health concerns, that can be used by organizations throughout the metro.

“What we offer today, we believe, are the best practices based on the resources available to us right now,” KC Rising’s John Murphy said.

Each jurisdiction is also handling compliance differently.

Lucas made it clear that if Kansas City businesses do not cooperate, there will be consequences — anything from fines to shutting down noncompliant businesses.

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