Update – Ad Astra plan May 14, 2020
The weekly call with the Governor was moved to Thursday rather than Friday. Here are the details.
Dr. Lee Norman – KDHE
Kansas has 7,468 cases, with 164 deaths. There are a total of 88 clusters, with 40 clusters being closed. The largest is in private business at 36, and the largest subset in that group is the meat packing industry.
Maryland was added to the list of travel ban states, but Colorado and Louisiana were removed from the list.
KDHE has a goal to test 60,000 people each in May and June. So far this month we’re ahead of schedule, testing at least 2,500 people per day. This is helpful in the contact tracing operations.
Kansas has its first case of an emerging Covid-19 related threat to young children, known as Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. It’s similar to Kawasaki syndrome, which causes extreme inflammation in organs and capillary systems. He stressed that there are hundreds of cases of this in New York, and now there’s one here – and it’s important to recognize there is a threat to children.
Kansas is getting regular shipments of the drug remdesivir. It is a drug developed to treat Ebola, but which has shown some promise with Covid-19. It will be used for patients in ICU, and we will have enough of the drug to treat those who need it most.
He cautioned that the best practice to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is social distancing, but that its best practice to wear a mask anytime you leave the house.
Ad Astra 1.5
The health metrics that are guiding the phased reopening plan have improved in some areas, but have not shown enough progress in other areas to move fully to Phase II. So we now have Phase 1.5. Under this plan, nail and hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and other personal services will be opened. Fitness clubs can open, but with no in-person classes and no use of locker rooms. The mass gathering limit is still held at 10 people, making indoor graduations improbable unless they can meet the 10 person limit. Outdoor drive-through style graduations would be allowed under this phase. (I need to get more clarity on this point about open air graduations). Bars and clubs remain closed, as do casinos, museums, theaters, community and event centers, swimming pools, concerts, fairs, festivals, and sports events and practices.
This phase will begin on May 18 and is expected to last two weeks. This will likely push back full implementation of Phase II until June 1. There’s an updated PDF of the plan below.
Office of Recovery
Executive Director Cheryl Harrison Lee outlined some information for this new office, which is tasked with managing some federal resources as the state recovers. There will be an executive committee chaired by former Manhattan Chamber of Commerce director Lyle Butler. It will have five members. There will also be a steering committee of 15 people to serve on subcommittees and help guide decisions. It will be bipartisan in makeup and will include legislative engagement. The subcommittees will be broken into three categories: finance and policy; implementation and accountability; and communication and engagement. The latter is designed to gather feedback and input from Kansas communities and residents.
Gov. Laura Kelly
She signed two executive orders today.
EO 20-31 Changes the Shared Work program, extending it to companies that have a negative experience rating in the unemployment system. A wrinkle in the law made companies that had a lot of layoffs ineligible for this program. As such, they might have been forced to layoff workers fully rather than cut them back to part time in a way that allows them to receive partial unemployment. This changes that.
EO 20-32 puts in place the Phase 1.5 of the reopening. I’ve included an updated PDF of the plan below.
The weekly calls with the Governor will also move to every two weeks. The next will be on May 29.
Rep. Jason Probst
Several committees have been meeting this week. The Labor and Commerce committee met twice. First to hear about some of the challenges that have emerged at the Kansas Department of Labor and the now well-known issues that have existed with the technology related to processing unemployment claims. The second meeting focused on some concerns that have been raised by the business lobby, including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Restaurant and Hospitality Association. There’s concern about liability guidelines in the era of Covid-19. They’d like to see some level of legal immunity established for those businesses that are following best practices for safety. They also had some concerns about proposed changes to the state’s Worker’s Compensation laws related to Covid-19. Additionally, they have a number of suggestions on what might be done to ease the path forward for business and industry. A few of these are good – such as setting Kansas up to be a location for companies that want to on-shore production. (As we’ve seen, off shoring our jobs and production capacity might save companies money, but it left us woefully unprepared to ramp up needed supply chains). Likewise, I think it’s fair to create some forgiveness in the experience rating (this is a formula based on that company’s unemployment claims) for those companies that had to lay off people because of Covid-19.
The legislature will return for a one-day session on May 21. There’s a lot of pressure coming from a couple of people in the Senate to ramrod through quite a bit of legislation in that one day. That seems like a pretty terrible idea to me, and one that likely won’t end well. But we shall see.
Take care, and stay healthy.