Governor: State not ready to end COVID disaster declaration

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 1:47 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Gov. Laura Kelly says the state is working on a plan to move out of pandemic disaster operations, but it will not be done by Tuesday, when the latest extension to the state’s COVID-related disaster declaration expires.

Kelly says she believes the state will not be ready to come out from under the declaration until at least the end of August. Without it, she says all executive orders allowing for various services would end. In addition, she said the Kansas National Guard would no longer be able to assist with vaccine distribution.

“We’re not ready yet. We have made a lot of strides on the virus and we are getting to the point, but we are not there yet,” Kelly told reporters Thursday at the Statehouse. “We also have to understand this isn’t something you want to flip off with a switch. It’s a transition that has to occur, and we need some lead time to make that transition smooth and effective.”

Under newly-enacted changes to the Kansas Emergency Management Act, the Legislative Coordinating Council must approve any further extensions. At their last meeting, Kelly requested the maximum extension allowed - 30 days. However, Republican members of the group - which is made up of legislative leaders from both chambers - indicated they wanted the state to move past the declaration, and felt the two-week extension would allow for the transition to begin.

“As Kansans return to normal, they expect us to do the same,” Senate President Ty Masterson said at the May 28 meeting. “Today’s short-term extension provides the governor the remaining time needed to end the emergency — while also making it clear any unnecessary or burdensome executive orders will be revoked.”

Kelly said she had not yet officially submitted the request for an extension, but her office was working on it.

A spokesperson for Masterson told 13 NEWS he stands by his comments from the last LCC meeting, but would withhold comment on the new extension request until it is submitted and he can review it.

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