Kansas governor extends stay-at-home directive until May 3

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday extended a stay-at-home order for all Kansas residents for an additional two weeks and called a teleconference with top legislators to consider $17 million in aid for hospitals.

The Democratic governor is keeping the shelter-in-place order in place until May 3, rather than Sunday, as initially planned. She’s also continuing to limit in-person worship services and other religious gatherings to 10 or fewer people, despite criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

HELPING HOSPITALS

Kelly called a meeting of the Republican-dominated State Finance Council in hopes of helping hospitals and releasing state funds to the Adjutant General’s Department, which oversees the state’s response to emergencies. The council is the governor and eight top lawmakers, six of them Republicans, and it makes some financial decisions when the GOP-controlled Legislature is not in session.

The session came only four days Kelly after successfully thwarted attempts by top Republicans to revoke a past order limiting in-person worship services and other religious gatherings.

CORONAVIRUS STATS

Statewide, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, grew Wednesday to 1,494, up 68 cases from Tuesday. The number of deaths increased by seven to 76.

Nursing homes have been particularly hard, with the Clearwater Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Sedgwick County joining those battling outbreaks. The facility has four cases and one death, The Wichita Eagle reports.

It has a one-out-of-five star rating on the Medicare website that ranks long-term care facilities based on past inspections, citations and complaints. Facility owner Willie Novotny said the concerns raised in the Medicare inspection had nothing to do with the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a variety retail store in western Kansas’ Garden City called Tienda Variedades Candy has been linked to multiple coronavirus cases, and now public health officials are warning shoppers that they may have been exposed there last month.

Projections conducted by the University of Washington have pushed the COVID-19 peak for Kansas out to April 29. Some communities already are moving to tamp down further on public gatherings, with Manhattan announcing it was closing its pools for the summer.

RACIAL DISPARITIES

Black Kansans have been disproportionately affected, with 114 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to 33 cases per 100,000 for white residents as of Wednesday. The data is incomplete, though, with missing racial data for 23% of cases.

Kelly described the trend as “alarming” in a written statement and said that it “points to, among other things, inequalities in healthcare -- some of which could have been addressed had Kansas expanded Medicaid.”

NO ELECTRICITY SHUTOFFS

Amid the outbreak, Kansas utility regulators Tuesday extended an emergency order barring utilities from shutting off service to customers who can’t pay their bills right now. The new order prohibits shutoffs of electric and natural gas utilities under state regulation due to nonpayment of bills through May 15.