TOPEKA, KS (AP) — Two days after a lengthy and contentious meeting with the GOP-led State Finance Council, Gov. Laura Kelly said she expected Republicans to continue using the meetings for political purposes at least until after the November election.
On Friday, the council agreed to extend Kelly's emergency declaration that allowed the state to continue providing coronavirus-related services.
The extension came only after Republican members demanded that Kelly, a Democrat, agree to a clause in the declaration that she did not intend to order another statewide closure of businesses.
Kelly had said repeatedly that she does not believe another statewide closure order will be necessary and she reiterated that on Monday. The extension will last until Oct. 15, when the council will have to vote on the issue again.
“It is political season and I think members of the State Finance Council took the opportunity to make political hay and I expect they'll continue to do that until the election's finally over,” she said.
On Monday, Kansas health officials reported 1,513 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, for a total of 49,899 across the state. Kansas also had 23 new deaths, raising that number to 534 since the pandemic began.
The governor said Kansans cannot become numb to the numbers and asked them to commit themselves again to safety recommendations even while everyone is tired of restrictions imposed by the virus. She also urged state residents to get a flu shot to prevent overwhelming the health care system with both COVID-19 and flu cases.
Kelly expressed concern after a video showed a large house party near the University of Kansas campus over the weekend where few people were wearing masks or social distancing.
She said students are responsible for helping to slow the virus but she believes they would be more cooperative if they had received consistent guidance from federal, state and local authorities from the beginning of the pandemic about the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.
“Yes, I think they need to act more responsibly,” she said. “I hope they don't suffer the consequences and their friends and families don't suffer the consequences of their behavior this weekend. But I want to reiterate that it really is up to us, particularly all the leaders, to get behind a consistent message and one that we know works that's based on science and fact.”
The university on Monday issued public health bans to students living at two off-campus houses in response to the video and reports there were other large parties, a university spokeswoman said. It wasn't immediately clear how many students were subject to the bans.
“Most of our students are doing the right thing, but we will not tolerate selfish and irresponsible behavior that puts the health and safety of our community at risk,” university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said in an email to The Kansas City Star.