Some Kansas businesses reopen; fourth inmate dies of COVID-19 at Lansing prison

photo by: AP File Photo

This Feb. 2, 2017 file photo, shows the exterior of the Lansing Correctional Center in Lansing, Kan. (Mark Rountree/The Leavenworth Times via AP, File)

Story updated at 1:37 p.m. Monday

MISSION — Barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, gyms and fitness centers began to reopen Monday in parts of Kansas, even as the virus claimed another life at the state’s largest prison.

Janey McCarthy, the owner of Blondie’s Hair Designs in Topeka, said she was excited to get back to work as were her clients, who have been calling and sending pictures of what their roots and nails look like without professional help.

“It has been very difficult and very stressful,” she said. “The bills keep coming every month with no income. And then we are responsible for the people who work for us.”

Salons still will have to take customers by appointment only, while gym and fitness centers won’t be allowed to have group classes or use their locker rooms for anything other than bathroom facilities. Local officials can issue stricter rules, however.

McCarthy said she removed the lobby furniture entirely to encourage people not to linger and wait in their cars.

Gov. Laura Kelly, who is expected to discuss the state’s reopening Wednesday during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump, already had allowed “non-essential” retail stores to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-in services May 4, with some restrictions. But limits on public gatherings of 10 or fewer people will remain in place, rather than being increased to 30 on Monday, as originally planned, amid concerns that the spread of the novel coronavirus is not yet decreasing.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 8,340 cases Monday, up by 454 from Friday, the last day the state reported data. Health officials also reported 173 deaths, while Johns Hopkins University reported 195.

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 and death.

Among the victims was a fourth inmate at the state’s largest prison in Lansing. The Kansas Department of Corrections announced Monday that the Lansing Correctional Facility inmate who died Saturday was over the age of 60 and had underlying medical conditions.

His name wasn’t released, but the corrections department said had been imprisoned since 1989 on charges that included aggravated robbery and first-degree murder.

The prison near Kansas City has been the hardest hit in the state, with 88 staff members and 750 inmates testing positive. Two of the staff members have died. But most of the infected inmates, 86%, are showing no symptoms.

There also are infections among 15 staff members and 40 inmates from six other corrections facilities.

The closures have devastated the economy, but there was some good news. The Massachusetts-based medical device firm Thermo Fisher Scientific announced Monday that it will build a new $40 million facility in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa and add 300 new jobs as it looks to ramp up production of materials for COVID-19 tests for a federal contract, The Kansas City Star reports.


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