Kansas will continue its fight against COVID-19, according to Gov. Laura Kelly.
Although the Kansas disaster declaration was allowed to expire today by the Legislative Coordinating Council, the state will continue its effort to vaccinate people, she said.
“We are going to keep doing what we have been doing,” Gov. Kelly said Tuesday. “It just will be harder without the disaster declaration.”
The declaration allowed the state to activate some resources including the Kansas National Guard and Emergency Management Division, and they will no longer have that ability, she said. They will still fight COVID-19, it will just be a different process, more cumbersome and more expensive, and starting from scratch putting it in place, she added.
The emergency declaration would have allowed the state to continue to contract with a number of nurses who provide vaccinations, Gov. Kelly said. She added they would have to revamp and figure out a different way to do it.
Also, by ending the state disaster declaration, it complicates the state’s relationships with the local units of government and the local health departments, she said. The state will have to figure out a different way to partner with the local health departments to make sure they’re getting what they need, she added.
A lot of the local services were in partnership with the state and with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, she said.
“We will continue to work with people and for people,” Gov. Kelly said. “It is just more complicated.”
There was no good reason other than political reasons to end this disaster declaration now, she added.
“Our intent was to ramp up our vaccination efforts in our school-age kids,” she said, making sure they had their vaccinations before schools reopened in August. “That’s something that we’ll do, but the state will have to pay for it and will have to put in place a new structure.”
The governor had submitted a detailed plan to the Legislative Coordinating Council to extend the disaster declaration (see http://www.wyandottedaily.com/governor-asks-lcc-to-extend-states-disaster-declaration/).
Wyandotte County extended its own local state of emergency for 90 days by a unanimous vote of the Unified Government Commission on June 10. This action will allow the local government to receive federal funding for the vaccination sites and other efforts to fight COVID-19, according to local officials.
The state was receiving federal funding for vaccination clinics and also for other programs, such as extra assistance for those on food stamps.
Gov. Kelly, state and local health officials saved countless numbers of lives during the 15 months the disaster declaration was in place in Kansas.
On Tuesday, the governor credited local public health departments with being remarkably responsive, innovative and absolutely passionate about the future.
Tuesday morning, the Legislative Coordinating Council let the disaster declaration expire by canceling the meeting where it was scheduled to be discussed. The declaration expires today. Senate President Ty Masterson released a statement, with Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn and Majority Larry Alley:
“At last month’s LCC meeting, a majority of legislative leaders made it clear that June 15th was likely to be the end of the state of emergency – that after 15 months, it is time for Kansas to return to normal. As such, the LCC recommended the governor develop an exit strategy to end the emergency – however, after reviewing the governor’s letter, it appears the governor opted for an extension strategy.
“The legislature and the LCC have granted the governor every extension request over the last year, but the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 no longer necessitate a statewide disaster emergency. The governor has not provided adequate justification for the LCC to grant her request for yet another extension, and all remaining efforts related to COVID-19 can and should take place under our normal procedures. As such, the statewide disaster emergency will expire as planned.”
Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Vicki Hiatt stated:
“The decision by Kansas Republican leaders to end the disaster declaration is nothing more than reckless political action that risks the health of Kansas families and our small businesses. To be clear, ending the disaster declaration doesn’t end the pandemic, it only makes it more difficult for the state to administer vaccines — especially to our children who will be going back to school come August.”
Kansas House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins issued a statement, with Speaker Ron Ryckman and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, all Republicans:
“Today marks 460 days since the Governor’s declaration of a disaster related to COVID-19. It is time for the declared disaster to end and recovery to begin. We asked the Governor for a detailed plan to justify the need for a further extension and the winding down of our state’s emergency response. What we received was an acknowledgment that nearly all executive orders could end immediately, and nearly all mission assignments could be closed by today. The Governor has failed to make a case for continuing the extraordinary measures that come with a declared disaster.
“The remaining goal to make vaccines available to all Kansans who want them is one that our state can achieve without emergency measures and executive orders. There are adequate medical personnel to meet the current demand for vaccines and the regular authority available to the Governor under the laws of our state is sufficient to meet these needs.
“The emergency part of this disaster has thankfully passed. Now is the time to help Kansans recover, rally and return to normal.”