KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - The fight over empty pews in Kansas is not over. Governor Laura Kelly says she'll explore her legal options after a group of state lawmakers revoked her limitations on church gatherings. At the same time, the state health department has now confirmed that two of 18 people infected at a church convention in KCK have died.
The conference at 22nd and Quindaro was regional. State officials say the two people who died were someone from Southeast Kansas who attended, and someone that person later contacted back home after the event ended. Eight others were hospitalized.
Reggie Watkins was a professional musician, well known in the local jazz world. He was 65, Baptist, but performed for the Church of God in Christ Conference along with another revered local jazz musician, whom a close friend says, was hospitalized.
A week later, Watkins died. Friends and family naturally assumed his death was related to the coronavirus because the state had already announced that others at the conference had been infected
“That was the assumption that everybody logically had because it just was coming up and he seemed to have some of the symptoms,” the brother of Reggie Watkins, Steven E Boyd, said.
Watkins’ brother found out Friday that a COVID-19 test taken after Watkins died came back negative but final results on a cause of death is weeks away.
Regardless, it’s made his brother feel a personal connection to the current crisis.
“You know, know simply because this is very painful what we’re dealing with,” Boyd said.
Wednesday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly had strong words about the action of GOP leaders to revoke her 10 or less limit for church functions, saying she is exploring a potential court challenge.
“There are real life consequences to the partisan games republican leaders played today and I simply cannot stand for it,” Kelly said.
As that plays out here in Kansas, Watkins’ brother in Ohio prays that parishioners choose to stay home on Sunday, no matter what the state says.
“It seems to me as Christians it’s about are we good stewards with what we’ve been given,” Boyd said.
It’s worth noting the order from KCMO, Wyandotte, Johnson, and Jackson counties do still have a 10-person restriction on church functions. So the move in Topeka does not change the rules here.