Governor Kelly: Kansas counties shouldn’t feel push to ease rules; signs bipartisan COVID-19 response bill

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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Dr. Lee Norman, her health secretary, watches behind her, Monday, June 8, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly the state’s counties “shouldn’t feel pressure” to lift restrictions further if they’re not seeing new cases and new hospitalizations decline. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP, KSN) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday counties “shouldn’t feel pressure” to loosen restrictions if they aren’t seeing a decline in new coronavirus cases or new hospitalizations.

Kelly made the comment Monday with cases increasing faster in the four most populous counties than the state as a whole. Kelly said she’s feeling hopeful because Kansas is making enough progress in containing the novel coronavirus for most of the state’s 105 counties to loosen restrictions further.

Her office and the state health department are advising local officials that as of Monday they can allow mass gatherings of up to 45 people and open swimming pools.

Also, on Monday, Governor Laura Kelly signed the bipartisan COVID-19 response bill, House Bill 2016 into law.

“From day one, my administration has worked keeping Kansans healthy, and protecting the economic future of Kansas’ businesses and communities,” Governor Kelly said. “That means reaching across the aisle to get things done. This bill contains essential provisions that will allow us to continue to deliver critical health and economic services to communities and businesses throughout the state during this pandemic.”

The bill addresses the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and its effects, both economic and health-related. It provides the Legislature with the ability to more effectively engage in oversight while the Legislature is not in session while Governor Kelly retains the emergency authority to act as needed during the pandemic.

Though there are a number of COVID-19 response measures contained in the bill, the key provision extends the current emergency declaration through September 15, 2020, providing stability and certainty for the state’s ongoing emergency response efforts. Beyond September 15, the State Finance Council may extend the declaration by a vote of 6 legislative members.

The bill also contains the provisions of a number of executive orders that the Governor has issued during the pandemic, including allowing for expanded telemedicine, temporary licensure of out-of-state medical providers, electronic notarization of documents and certain liquor sales.

While the bill does provide some liability protection for medical providers and businesses, these elements are written very narrowly to apply to certain aspects of the COVID-19 response, and for most businesses the liability protection only applies when the business acts within the scope of public health requirements.

House Bill 2016 becomes effective upon publication in an emergency edition the Kansas Register to be published Tuesday.

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