Labette County Emergency Management issued a response Wednesday to Gov. Kelly’s announcement (story below). When contacted, Neosho County officials said it hadn’t been decided if they would issue a press release or conduct a special meeting.
“As Gov. Kelly’s directives have expired by operation of law, the County of Labette, having had no COVID-19 cases for 28 days, will NOT impose any restrictions. This means we trust our citizens to follow common sense, and use good judgement for the health of themselves, and their fellow citizens.
“We therefore are as we were before any stay at home or social distancing orders were issued by the Governor, and no restrictions whatsoever are imposed by the County.
“Individuals and private businesses can set standards for themselves and their customers, but none will be ordered by the County. Individual cities or School Districts may, under their Home Rule power, set standards for their areas of responsibility.
“Labette County seeks to re start normal life and commerce immediately, and wants each citizen to make their own choices based upon their individual situations.
“In the event Labette County sees a resurgence of Covid 19, future restrictions may be imposed.”
Counties now in charge of COVID-19 restrictions
STEPHEN KORANDA AND JIM MCLEAN
Kansas News Service
TOPEKA — Kansas no longer will impose a statewide phased-in reopening plan, Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday.
In deciding to veto a bill that would have restricted her powers to respond to the coronavirus, she issued a new emergency declaration.
“This legislation creates more problems than it solves,” Kelly said. She argued it would ultimately delay coronavirus aid from the federal government. “This would only prolong the economic pain of this crisis.”
Kelly’s new order makes her phase-out of the economic shutdown and limits on mass gatherings an advisory guidebook for county officials — not a statewide command.
She also will call the Legislature into a special session on June 3 to extend the new emergency declaration.
The Democratic governor heaped criticism on Republican leaders of the Legislature, lawmakers whom she said made “rushed and haphazard” changes to the law that gave her the emergency powers to impose a statewide shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly said the legislation was constitutionally dubious. That meant, Kelly contended, that if she signed the bill, “it would have put the state at risk for additional legal battles.
“More importantly,” she said, “it would have hindered our response to this crisis.”
Republican lawmakers pulled an all-nighter last week to clamp down on Kelly’s authority after weeks of criticism that she overstepped in shutting down businesses and didn’t reopen quickly enough.
That put Kelly in a tough spot, because the extension of her emergency declaration, which expires at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, was tied to provisions that gave lawmakers more oversight over actions she might need to take in pandemics or disaster situations.
“This new declaration is not ideal,” Kelly said. “It is a direct result of the political games that had been played up to this point.”
Some lawmakers cautioned last week that they were on shaky legal ground because the resolution that brought the Legislature back into session had a midnight Thursday ending date.
“Anything that we do from here on out, we’re going to get sued on,” Republican Rep. Mark Samsel said in the early hours of Friday morning.
On Tuesday, Republican leaders in the Kansas House issued a joint statement after the governor’s announcement saying the sudden change in policy creates “unnecessary confusion about the status of the current disaster declaration, what orders are still in place, and what Kansans can expect going forward.”
Kansas has more than 9,300 cases of COVID-19, with 822 people needing hospitalization and 205people dead. Five counties make up more than half of the state’s cases: Finney, Ford, Leavenworth, Seward and Wyandotte.
Kelly said she briefed county leaders on a conference call Tuesday morning. Sedgwick County has called a meeting today to discuss the changes.
Wyandotte County officials said late Tuesday they will stick the Phase 2 plan set out by Kelly. That will stay in effect until June 8, Mayor David Alvey said.
“No matter what political battles rage at the state level, our fight has been and will continue to be against the novel coronavirus,” Alvey said. “We will restrict, or relax, as much as is necessary to prevent overwhelming first responders and our health care system, while simultaneously working to re-open our community at the appropriate time.”
Dr. Erin Corriveau, Wyandotte County’s deputy medical officer, said the decision focused on the “significant number of residents who are at high risk from a COVID-19 infection.” The county has 1,270 confirmed cases and 72 deaths, according to the health department’s website.
Kelly is calling the Legislature back to Topeka on June 3 to work on the state’s coronavirus response, but lawmakers aren’t barred from taking up other topics. The session potentially gives issues that stalled another chance, like Medicaid expansion and a constitutional amendment on abortion.
Kelly said having some guidelines in place to phase in the reopening of businesses would protect the state from more dire consequences that would follow future surges in the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the legislation she vetoed, she would have needed to seek approval from lawmakers for keeping certain businesses closed, and orders wouldn’t have been enforced with criminal charges, only fines.