Confusion continues on essential businesses, activities as stay-at-home order begins

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Tuesday was the first day of the stay-at-home order in the Kansas City area.

Leaders of multiple jurisdictions worked together to draft the order and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Although the list of businesses allowed to be open at this time is on Kansas City's website and every county’s website as well, there's still a lot of confusion.

“My main reason for coming out was we are a well-water people, so we have a well and we have a clogged drain in the kitchen,” Ina Frakes from Shawnee said. 

Frakes spent her first day of the stay-at-home order at Home Depot getting an essential piece of equipment to maintain her household. That's allowed under the areas' stay-at-home orders. 

RELATED: These counties in and around the KC metro have ‘stay-at-home’ orders

But then, looking across the street, Frakes noticed Michaels Arts and Crafts store in Shawnee is also open for business.

"I don’t think it’s really essential, but we’re losing our minds," she said. "So I got a puzzle for my family to put together and some yarn to do a craft products for my girls.”

People have a lot of questions about what is and what isn't essential.

RELATED: Here's a list of what counts as essential activities and essential businesses during stay-at-home order

“We have been spending a lot of time with our legal department and our health officer trying to interpret what they’re doing and does it fit our definition,” Johnson County Assistant County Manager Joe Connor said. 

Connor and his crew have been busy fielding phone calls from employees, businesses and the public about what is and is not an essential business.

Some people are concerned that some non-essential businesses are still open, putting employees and the public at risk.

“We want to identify who those businesses are," Connor said. "Either we will call them as public health authority or will have law enforcement maybe make a visit and say, ‘We’ve got these reports. Here’s the best practice. Can you work with us to be a better community partner in our fight against COVID-19?'"

The stay-at-home order is virtually the same in all counties throughout the area. Local governments came together to present a united front in the fight against COVID-19.

Parents like Frakes hope it will work.

“Kids are scared for sure, so we are just trying to keep them all going on like everyday life, which is hard,” she said 

Some people were out on the first day of the order getting groceries and other necessities, but getting to an essential business is a matter of life and death for some. 

"I am visiting the Johnson County Courthouse to put a protection order, an extension for a protection order,” Lonni Kuriakose said.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department is an essential business in the county's order. But other businesses that are still open are raising questions.

“Is it part of an essential service or not? Are there other things that they are providing the folks that need it such as school children or people that have to work from home or things like that that they can maybe help us fit that definition?” Connor asked. “So I think we’re getting a lot of questions like that from businesses, and we’re taking them one at a time and trying to be consistent with our interpretations throughout."

Officials say visits to essential businesses should not be an excuse for people to get out every day to beat cabin fever. They're meant for people who really need to be out.

"I am very thankful that there are some resources still open legally to be able to protect our citizens,” Kuriakose said. 

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