TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a statewide order Saturday requiring people to stay in their homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus, waiting until nearly three-quarters of the state’s residents were already facing such directives.
Kansas joins nearly two dozen states in ordering residents to stay at home. The Kansas order is effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday through April 19.
“As governor I left the decision to local health departments for as long as possible,” Kelly said. She called the current “patchwork” of local orders problematic and said she believes the statewide order was necessary because Kansas “isn’t ready for the peak” of the pandemic.
Kelly, a Democrat, issued the order for Kansas’ 2.9 million residents after at least 25 counties, including all of the state’s most populous ones, issued their own stay-at-home orders. Kelly said the new order supersedes the local orders.
The order directs people to stay at home except for essential business such as trips to the grocery store or to get medical care. Outdoor exercise is allowed as long as social distancing is maintained, Kelly said.
“You can leave your house. You can still go outside. You are not under house arrest,” Kelly said.
Conservatives in the Republican-controlled Legislature said that Kelly overreached this month when she ordered all of the state’s K-12 schools closed for the rest of the semester and complained that the state’s economy was being damaged too much. Legislative leaders have the power to review – and revoke – her orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, all Republicans, said in a joint statement that the new order “will no doubt impact our families and our businesses. As members of the Legislative Coordinating Council we have a duty to carefully assess this executive order and the reasons for it. Over the coming days we will consult with the Attorney General, health care professionals, the business community, and the state’s emergency management team to make sure we are on the right path.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Kansas health officials reported 202 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus as of Friday, an increase of 34 from Thursday, and four deaths, all in the Kansas City area.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said more than 100 complaints about alleged price gouging related to the coronavirus have been filed since the state’s anti-profiteering law was triggered by Kelly’s declaration of a state emergency on March 12. Some complaints have been assigned to investigators within the attorney general’s office or to local prosecutors.
Associated Press reporter Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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