Metro area counties issue 30-day stay-at-home order effective Tuesday

Downtown Overland Park was nearly deserted Saturday morning amid increasingly urgent warnings from health officials to stay home when possible. This afternoon, Johnson County and its neighbors in the metro area announced a shelter-in-place order that will be effective March 24.

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Following an emergency meeting of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners this afternoon, the four major governments in the metro area jointly announced a stay-at-home order for local residents that will go into effect Tuesday, March 24.

All residents of Johnson County, Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Mo., and the rest of Jackson County, Mo., — collectively known as the CORE 4 partners — will be subject to the order, which will remain in place for 30 days.

During that period, residents are directed to stay at home except for essential needs. Essential businesses and agencies that will be permitted to remain open during the order include:

  • government services
  • infrastructure projects
  • childcare
  • healthcare
  • grocery stores
  • pharmacies
  • delivery/carry-out/drive-through services from restaurants

Outdoor activities will also be permitted provided they don’t require the clustering of groups of people.

The four governments will hold a joint press conference at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 22 at Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., to announce further details of the order.

County commissioners debate length of order

The county commissioners, meeting in a special session Saturday, discussed whether the order should be issued for two weeks, then re-evaluated, or for the 30 days as planned. Commissioner Mike Brown said the county ought to consider a shorter time to start.

“I’m a lot less concerned and quite candidly am not concerned in the least about what the CORE 4 thinks is the best for Johnson County. I’m concerned with what the seven of us think are the best for this county,” Brown said.

Brown said he worried that, should the county determine it was appropriate to rescind the order before the 30 days was up, setting the 30-day period now would cause unnecessary confusion in the future.

“I just think that’s backward. Why you would go out and create that concern and plug that into the public’s brain at 30 days and create the clear upset that’s going to come and then possibly pull it back to two weeks,” he said. “Seems like we’re creating undue work for everyone.”

But Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick disagreed.

“I think it makes complete sense to work  together because this virus does not know boundaries and we are part of the Kansas city metro area,” she said. “I think to put something in place for 30 days that people could plan around actually makes their lives less disruptive.”

Commissioner Jim Allen concurred, saying, “In this situation I think the best we can do is err on the side of caution.”

Commissioners also had many questions about the particulars of the order, which some said they were only just reading as the meeting began. Brown got reassurance that food delivery networks would continue, for instance.

Commissioner Michael Ashcraft also had a question about the specific language included in the order draft the board was reviewing.

“It looks like liquor stores are essential but religious organizations are not,” he said. “There’s a social construct there that may raise questions.”

Chairman Ed Eilert said the county hopes the situation will turn for the better and health officials could recommend a truncated period in good conscience. But, he said, there’s also the chance that the data will suggest a extension of the order is recommended.

“Our hope is that the data will be there and the data may show that we need to extend it for more than 30 days,” he said. “I don’t think we can overlook that. But if the data shows we can end it earlier then we will do so.”

Eilert also said he when he talked to unnamed federal officials recently he asked for more test kits for the labs and for more protective equipment for health care workers. He acknowledged the difficulty this situation was presenting for everyone.

“This is not easy for anybody including those of us who have to make the decision. But I know there are many persons in our community whose immune systems are not operating at a high level and those are some of the most vulnerable folks,” Eilert said.  “I think we need to take actions to protect our entire community to the fullest extent we can to mitigate the community transmission of this virus. I wish it were different, but it’s not.”

Roxie Hammill contributed to this report.

Specifics of the stay-at-home order

The order reviewed by the Board of County Commissioners Saturday afternoon defines essential activities and lays out exemptions as follows:

Directing Johnson County residents to stay at home except to perform any of the following “Essential Activities”:

i. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, obtaining medical supplies or medication, or visiting a health care professional;

ii. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, to obtain supplies they need to work from home, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;

iii. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running. Use of parks and other public areas are permitted. However, use of playground equipment is discouraged;

iv. To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities expressly authorized;

v. To care for a family member or pet in another household;

vi. To work for or obtain services at any “Healthcare Operations” including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. “Healthcare Operations” also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare, broadly defined. “Healthcare Operations” does not include activities at fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities.

vii. To provide any services or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of “Essential Infrastructure,” including, but not limited to, public works construction, construction of housing (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness), commercial construction, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services), provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements, to the extent possible.

PROPOSED ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES

EXEMPT:

• all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and others working for or to support Essential Businesses are categorically exempt.

• Any individual performing or accessing “Essential Governmental Functions.” Essential Government Functions means all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.

COVERED: covered businesses include any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entities, regardless of the nature of the service, the function they perform, or its corporate or entity structure.

“ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES” means:

i. Healthcare Operations, Essential Infrastructure, and Essential Government Functions;

ii. Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and any other household consumer products (including, but not limited to, cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;

iii. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;

iv. Human and animal food processing facility workers;

v. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;

vi. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;

vii. Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;

viii. Banks and related financial institutions;

ix. Hardware stores;

x. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, construction, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses;

xi. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;

xii. Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions related to distance learning, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible. School buildings may be used if needed to house individuals, distribute food, provide medical care, distance learning or any other services deemed necessary to protect life and property and other critical resources.;

xiii. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;

xiv. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out and not for consumption on the premises. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at gathering site;

xv. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;

xvi. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;

xvii. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;

xviii. Aircraft, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized;

xix. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;

xx. Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;

xxi. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;

xxi. Childcare facilities providing services that enable exempted to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following mandatory conditions:

1. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 10 or fewer (“stable” means that the same 10 or fewer children are in the same group each day);

2. Children shall not change from one group to another;

3. If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other; and

4. Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
xxii. Mortuary, cremation, and cemetery services.