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Kansas Rolls Back More Restrictions, but the Pool Won't be Open for Memorial Day

Movie theaters like this one in Wichita will be able to reopen on Friday. (Photo by Hugo Phan, KMUW)

TOPEKA, Kansas — Starting Friday, Kansans can gather in slightly larger groups, take in a movie, go to an art museum and bowl a few frames.

But concerts, festivals, summer camps and parades will remain shut down. And you still won’t be able to get a drink at a bar.

At a news conference Tuesday a day before a meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House, Gov. Laura Kelly announced another round of gradually eased restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

"We may be transitioning to Phase 2," the governor told reporters, "but we still have a long ways to go before arriving at anything bordering on normal.”

Kelly already delayed what she’d billed as Phase 2 of her plan to reopen the Kansas economy. It was scheduled to kick in Monday. Instead, she moved to Phase 1.5 at the start of the week, allowing gyms, salons and tattoo parlors to open their doors — as long as they followed social distancing guidelines and scheduled appointments.

Kansas is still seeing coronavirus hot spots across the state, like meatpacking counties in southwestern Kansas and a new cluster in Topeka related to a nearby lake. But her next round of loosened rules — coming just before the Memorial Day weekend — follow a weekend where Kansas recorded only one death and a handful of new hospitalizations.

So far, the state has recorded more than 8,000 cases, some 740 hospitalizations and more than 170 deaths from COVID-19.

About a week ago, Kelly instituted a modified version of her reopening plans, despite record unemployment claims and scores of businesses warning the shutdown could doom them.

Even in the latest phase that starts Friday, both indoor and outdoor entertainment venues built for more than 2,000 people can’t open. Self-service food or beverage operations remain forbidden.

Bars, nightclubs and swimming pools must stay closed.

But the lid on gatherings increases to 15 people. State-owned casinos can open (the governor doesn’t have authority over tribal casinos, though many have closed), but they have to run their operations plans by state health officials.

Community centers can open if they limit the number of people who can come in. Recreational sports leagues get a go-ahead, but only if they meet in small groups and players keep their distance from each other. Small graduation ceremonies are OK, increasing the number from 10 to 15 people at a time.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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