Capitol Update: Rep. Ruiz highlights steps that need to be taken before normal economic activity can begin to resume

Rep. Susan Ruiz says cuts to funding for public health efforts have made the COVID-19 situation worse.

Each legislative session, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Rep. Susan Ruiz and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week. Rep. Ruiz’s column is below.

We all want to go back to the life we were leading prior to this pandemic. Our newsfeeds are full of daily COVID-19 updates. State representatives receive multiple emails on a daily basis giving us the count of positive cases; negative cases and deaths. We have all been trying to help our respective constituents’ access resources, especially unemployment benefits. Listening to local and national news can be overwhelming. There are so many contradictory messages coming out of the White House from the President. Dr. Fauci, the immunologist who is leading the efforts to combat the virus is credible.

In Kansas, Governor Kelly gives daily updates and Dr. Lee Norman also gives updates and medical explanations. Governor Kelly does not contradict Dr. Norman, and in fact is grateful for his leadership and knowledge regarding pandemics. I say all this because, it is imperative that the Governor and the State Legislature listen to the scientists and top medical professionals before making a determination of when to open up the state. The health and safety of the citizens of Kansas were the number one reasons for declaring the state of emergency. We should not open up the state because there are rallies at the Capitol or because state and senate leadership have an eye on the fall election. Now more than ever, the Governor, Senate and House members need to come together to gradually re-opening the state.

The World Health Organization (WHO) came up with six criteria before “relaxing mitigation measures”. They urge us to “re-open gradually and strike a balance between keeping people healthy and allowing the economies to function.”

Six criteria are:

  • Transmission is controlled.
  • Health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.
  • Outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes.
  • Preventative measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go.
  • Importation risks can be managed.
  • Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the normal.

As you can see, we have some work to do to meet the six criteria. Years of cuts in funding to fight pandemics in the state and nation led to the spread of the virus. The supplies of personal protective equipment and medical instruments were depleted in the first few weeks of the national stay at home orders. People of color in particular have been victims of the virus. The number of positive cases are high among African-American and Latino populations. The lack of access to medical services is partly due to the lack of health insurance and the state legislature’s inability to pass Medicaid expansion. We must make an effort to address these issues.

I will always welcome your thoughts and ideas and ways I can represent you in Topeka. I invite you to reach out to me via Facebook, Twitter, or via my website.