Kelly includes religious services in executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people; Kansas death total reaches 27

photo by: Screenshot/Kansas Office of the Governor

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly gives her daily COVID-19 briefing via video from the Kansas Statehouse, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

As major holidays like Easter and Passover near, religious services in Kansas will now likely have to be conducted virtually, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday.

The unprecedented action to include religious services in an executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people, Kelly said, is among the most difficult she has had to issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It became necessary, though, as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed three outbreaks linked to church services that weren’t complying with necessary gathering limits.

“We are rapidly approaching the peak of the virus in Kansas. The risk for a spike through additional church gatherings is especially dangerous,” Kelly said in her daily briefing. “This was a difficult decision and could not come at a more disappointing time.”

To be clear, Kelly’s executive order on religious services does not prohibit the services from taking place. They just can’t consist of more than 10 people in one place.

“Adhering to (these guidelines) not only protects you and your family, but your neighbors and fellow congregants,” Kelly said. “But physical distance does not keep us apart. Although it will happen virtually this year, we will continue to celebrate each other, worship with one another and pray for each other on Easter Sunday.”

Kelly confirmed that she would also not attend an Easter service in person. She acknowledged how difficult not going to a physical church would be for many.

“It holds a deep meaning for thousands of Kansans, regardless of whether they’re a member of a particular religious institution,” she said. “These are defining family customs that have all been put on pause for everyone … I appreciate the continued spirit of sacrifice.”

Kelly’s announcement came just after KDHE said Tuesday that cumulative confirmed cases of the virus in Kansas jumped 6% since Monday – from 845 to 900 — one of the lower day-to-day percentage changes since the outbreak began. The state confirmed two more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 27.

The 900 confirmed cases are out of 9,514 total tests, meaning 9.5% of tested Kansans have the virus. A week prior, on March 30, only 7.4% of all tests returned positive.

Those numbers should be taken with the caveat that new research in recent days out of China, where the virus originated in late 2019, suggests that COVID-19 testing can have a 30% false-negative testing rate. American medical experts have suggested to national media outlets that number could be even higher.

KDHE last week began releasing more comprehensive data in its daily updates, which now include the testing rate in each of Kansas’ 105 counties. In Douglas County, 843 people have been tested either by the state or by private labs, and 38 cases have been confirmed positive.

The testing rate, the department said, equates to 6.9 tests per 1,000 county residents. That’s the third-highest rate among all Kansas counties.

KDHE is also tracking hospitalization rates for cases where such information is available. The department said 223 of the 694 positive COVID-19 cases that are being tracked have resulted in hospitalization thus far — a 32.1% rate for applicable cases.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kansas

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