OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners met briefly Thursday morning and agreed to acknowledge Gov. Laura Kelly’s modified Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan because of the novel coronavirus, which has sickened 8,539 Kansans and killed 178. The county will not impose further restrictions other than what the governor implements when Phase 2 begins Friday.
Commissioner Lonie Addis was in the commission room in the lower level of the courthouse in Oswego. Commissioners Fred Vail and Doug Allen and Emergency Management Director Charlie Morse phoned into the meeting.
Vail at first moved to accept the governor’s order and not impose additional restrictions. Allen objected.
“I don’t think we should adopt the governor’s orders. I think we should acknowledge that we are constrained by them,” said Allen, who wants the economy opened as soon as possible. He said counties have no option but to obey Kelly’s executive orders, even though he questioned their constitutionality. If commissioners adopted the governor’s plan, that means they are on board with it and agree with it, “And I’m not sure that’s where any of us are.”
Commissioners then voted 3-0 to acknowledge the governor’s Phase 2 plan and that the county is bound by it.
A legal issue has been raised on the governor’s authority to issue a second state of emergency declaration. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt released a legal opinion Wednesday saying Kelly did not have authority to issue a second state of emergency declaration just before her first expired May 1. State law requires Kelly to get legislative leaders’ approval to extend the second declaration past mid-May, and GOP leaders made sure it runs only through Monday, The Associated Press reported. Lawmakers were meeting Thursday, the last day of the 2020 session, to wrap up business.
Morse said he didn’t know if another emergency declaration would pass the Legislature. If a declaration fails, the governor’s emergency orders may also expire.
The county has an emergency declaration in place that expires in June and Morse may ask to extend that. This order allows the county to seek reimbursement for costs incurred during the emergency.
County Counselor Brian Johnson said the governor’s state of emergency may expire after Memorial Day without intervention, and he didn’t know how much lawmakers could accomplish in one day. The session ended at midnight Thursday.
Allen also clarified the county’s COVID-19 cases. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported that Labette County had 23 cases on Monday and 24 cases on Wednesday. These cases are from positive tests performed at Cytocheck lab in Parsons. They are from Louisiana residents who have not been in Kansas, but their samples came to the Parsons lab for testing.
Morse said Cytocheck has been testing virus samples from across the U.S. Positive tests are sent to KDHE and the state agency attributes the positives to the county instead of to the county where the patients live.
Labette County has had 22 COVID-19 cases and all patients have recovered, Morse said.
Phase 2 reopening
Kelly’s modified Phase 2 restricts mass gatherings to no more than 15 people. It allows most businesses to reopen, except for bars, night clubs and swimming pools. State-owned casinos also open on Friday once their reopening plans have been approved by KDHE.
Phase 2 runs to June 7, and Phase 3 begins June 8, with mass gatherings of more than 45 people prohibited.