TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday she is increasingly concerned the state does not have the infrastructure and policies in place to stop a continuing increase in confirmed cases of the coronavirus
On Monday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 53,959 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 600 deaths since the pandemic began. That’s an increase of 1,674 cases and four deaths over the weekend.
The governor said the state has consistently confirmed an average of about 500 new cases per day in the recent weeks, particularly as schools are reopening, sports have resumed and flu season is quickly approaching.
“We knew this was coming, we knew we could prepare for it but because we failed to implement a coherent, coordinated mask policy, because we have taken an ineffective, patchwork approach to our COVID-19 response, cases and deaths continue to rise,” she said.
Early in the pandemic, Kelly issued statewide mandates to wear masks and close some businesses but the GOP-led Legislature pushed back and passed a law that requires a Republican-majority council to approve the governor’s emergency executive orders. That led to allowing counties to decide individually if they would follow the orders.
That lack of a coherent, statewide response to the coronavirus — along with Kansas Republican leaders’ refusal to expand Medicaid — endangers residents’ lives and is a factor that companies consider when deciding whether to move to Kansas, she said.
“We must provide prospective employers with certainty that their employees and their families will have access to affordable health care,” she said. “Our state path to economic growth is dependent upon healthy Kansans.”
The county health department said the positive case involved a person at Timber Creek Elementary School in the Blue Valley district, but they did not say if a student or staff member was infected.
In Johnson County, health officials urged more than 100 people who had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 at an elementary school in Overland Park to quarantine for 14 days, but some parents are objecting to the recommendation.
The department sent a letter Saturday to Blue Valley Superintendent Tonya Merrigan, urging affected individuals to abide by the quarantine.
Sanmi Areola, county health director, said on Monday that the 14-day quarantine is the appropriate action to contain the spread, The Kansas City Star reported.
Elementary students returned to a mix of remote and in-person schooling in Blue Valley on Sept. 9. The district currently plans to bring elementary students back to in-person classes full time on Oct. 5.
Several parents who want to return now to full-time, in-person classes protested at the school Sunday. Christine White, a pediatrician who has frequently called for schools to reopen, hosted the rally.
She said in a Facebook post that the quarantine was a “massive overreaction.”
“Please understand that if we let this action by the health department and school go unchecked and we let them slide, then they will know we have a breaking point where we will just lay down and accept the crumbs of an education for our children,” she wrote.