“Ad Astra” plan increases local flexibility in COVID-19 response efforts

TOPEKA – In a televised address, Governor Laura Kelly today presented her detailed framework for gradually, safely re-opening the Kansas economy and getting Kansas back to work. Kelly’s framework, “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas” comes five weeks after a statewide stay-home order became necessary to aggressively mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Phase One will take effect on Monday, May 4, 2020, via Executive Order 20-29, when the statewide stay-home order outlined in Executive Order 20-16 officially lifts.

“I am incredibly proud of how the people of Kansas met the moment and answered the call to hunker down,” Kelly said. “It has been a difficult time that has taken a painful toll … financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually and professionally on Kansans,” Kelly said. “But because Kansans took this seriously, COVID-19 has inflicted far less devastation on Kansas than it did in other states.”

The framework is structured to return more flexibility to local community response efforts, while still operating under a statewide, regulatory baseline. It allows local governments to impose additional restrictions beyond those outlined at the state level, if they deem it necessary to local COVID-19 response efforts. Local governments that choose not to impose additional restrictions are required to operate within the regulatory baseline established by the state. This approach will increase flexibility for local communities while also ensuring a gradual, safe transition statewide.

“My Ad Astra plan was developed in collaboration with my state health department, state emergency management team, business leaders and a diverse team of community leaders,” Kelly said. “It aims to balance the needs and concerns identified throughout diverse regions of the state, and sectors of the Kansas economy, but without compromising public health and safety. Data must drive this process … not dates.”

The Governor will evaluate the state’s disease spread, testing rates, death rates, hospitalizations, ability of state and local public health authorities to contain outbreaks and conduct contact tracing, and personal protective equipment availability when determining if the state should move to the next “Phase.” Regardless of phase, the State Health Officer retains the authority to impose additional public health interventions in any area that contains an emergent and significant public health risk.

Throughout all these phases, Kansans should continue to adhere to hygiene and social distancing protocols, including:

  • Washing hands frequently, while avoiding contact with one’s face;
  • Remaining home when sick or running a fever;
  • Following isolation and quarantine orders issued by state or local health officers;
  • Wearing a cloth face mask when in public;
  • Working remotely, if possible.

These are basic public health guidelines that will slow the spread of this disease, regardless of which phase is in effect, and are essential to minimizing community transmission of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine.

“Even if Kansans do everything perfectly for the next couple of months, new outbreaks are almost inevitable until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, manufactured and made widely available. It is essential that we make this transition slowly, gradually and cautiously,” the Governor said.

Kelly’s “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas,” is available in full at covid.ks.gov, in addition to industry-specific guidance for Kansas businesses.