Kansas’ stay-at-home order extended to May 3 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise; state death toll hits 76

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions about the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Updated at 3 p.m. Wednesday

Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday extended Kansas’ mandatory stay-at-home order until midnight on May 3 as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the state and efforts are underway to increase the state’s testing capacity.

Kansas, Kelly said, is currently expected to see a peak in confirmed cases of the virus between April 19, when the original stay-at-home order was set to expire, and April 29.

“We need to see a reduction in cases for 14 days before relaxing social-gathering restrictions,” Kelly said in her daily COVID-19 briefing.

The state is extending its stay-at-home order in coordination with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and mayors in the Kansas City metro region, Kelly said.

“We believe a regional approach will reduce confusion and help keep the community safe on both sides of the state line,” she said.

Kelly has also begun conversations with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to ensure continuity with Colorado and the western portion of Kansas. She hasn’t had similar conversations with governors from Nebraska and Oklahoma, as the two states have handled the pandemic “very differently” from Kansas, Missouri and Colorado.

“Moving forward, it’s clear that no state in the nation will truly be able to get back to normal until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, manufactured and made widely available,” Kelly said.

The order extending the stay-at-home mandate came as the state Department of Health and Environment announced 68 new cases of the respiratory virus, bringing Kansas’ total to 1,494. The state also confirmed seven more deaths related to the virus, which brings the state total to 76.

There are now 342 COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the state, out of 1,201 cases where data is available. That represents a 28.5% hospitalization rate, which is around where Kansas’ statistics have been since the outbreak began.

The state to this point has tested a total of 14,668 people for the virus, and a lack of testing supplies has placed Kansas 50th in the nation in terms of testing rate per capita in terms of tests performed per capita, according to national studies. The 1,494 positive cases mean 10.2% of Kansans are testing positive for the virus — a rate which has also been fairly consistent for the last two weeks.

As Kansas works to expand its testing capacity, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases will also likely increase more rapidly than normal. KDHE Secretary Lee Norman has long stated, and reiterated Wednesday, that Kansas needs to be able to test well people — along with those exhibiting symptoms — to know the virus’s true impact and when the state may be able to return to more normal operations.

Kelly echoed those sentiments, saying that she understands and sympathizes with the need to begin reopening the state’s businesses. But doing so too quickly, and before state and federal health officials say it’s safe, could have a disastrous impact on stopping the virus’s spread.

“If we do rush it, we will end up doing more harm,” Kelly said. “If you take it slowly and cautiously, we will win that race and be better off in the long run.”

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