Written by Lisa Horn, Public Health Nurse Specialist, Local Public Health for Public Health Connections
Photo courtesy of Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.
As Kansas re-emerges from statewide COVID-19 orders, a veto last week by Governor Laura Kelly has returned authority to counties to set health, business and mass gathering limits. Kelly’s Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas, which reopened the entire state in phases, has transitioned to guidance counties can choose to follow as they reopen.
In vetoing House Bill 2054, Kelly sought to preserve a local health officer’s authority to issue emergency health orders for the county (a statute last amended in 1979). If the bill hadn’t been vetoed such orders would have been required to be approved by the local board of health, which in most counties, is its county commission.
Based on the epidemiological situation in each of their unique counties, some counties are choosing to follow the Ad Astra plan completely, take elements of it into their reopening or reopening without phases or recommendations. As health departments attempt to stay on top of investigating new cases and their contacts, while still providing regular services, enforcing business and mass gathering orders has been challenging, if not impossible for many already short-staffed health departments and law enforcement agencies.