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Under Political Pressure, Missouri and Kansas Governors Choose Different Paths To Reopening Businesses

KCUR 89.3 File Photo
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson spoke with Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date about their approach to handling the coronavirus.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she will decide whether to extend the statewide stay-at-home order “later next week.” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says most businesses should be able to open May 4.

The federal government has left many of key decisions for handling the coronavirus up to states. For Kansas City metro residents, that means different approaches depending on their side of the state line.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a statewide stay-at-home starting March 30, and Kansas was the first state to end in-person classes.

A week later, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson put the state under a stay-at-home order. Parson has emphasized that counties and cities are best equipped to make decisions.

As pressure begins mounting on governors throughout the country, here are the most notable differences between Kansas and Missouri.

Opening businesses

Both Missouri and Kansas have stay-at-home orders set to expire May 3.

Parson said during a Facebook press briefing Wednesday that the state is still working on the guidelines but on May 4, “almost every business in the state of Missouri will be able to open their doors.”

Parson’s statewide order didn’t close nonessential business but required those employers to have no more than 10 people in a space, with customers and employees standing six feet apart. But the governor said cities and counties could put more stringent requirements in place. Kansas City will still be under a more restrictive city stay-at-home order until at least May 15.

Before easing those restrictions, Parson said, the state wants to expand testing capacity, increase its hospital capacity as well as its reserve of personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders, and improve its ability to predict outbreaks.

“I don't want to mislead people to think, ‘OK, the governor says we're going to open this up on May 4, so everything's okay,’” Parson said on Thursday. “That virus is still going to be out there. And it's still going to be in parts of the state, whether it's in rural or urban, it’s still going to be out there. People are still going to lose their lives over this for a while. So I mean, that's the reality of it.”

Kelly said on Thursday that a decision about extending Kansas’ statewide order will be made “later next week.”

“We will be tracking all the health indicators, the testing, the contact tracing. I think we're okay with our hospital capacity. I don't think that's going to be a problem,” Kelly said. “I think our contact tracing is going to be in place.”


Kansas had the lowest rate of testing among all 50 states, according to a Kansas News Service analysis. About six of every 1,000 residents had been tested as of data from April 19.

“I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that that changes because we do need to reopen our economy, but we've got to make sure that people are safe,” Kelly said.

Missouri is also looking to expand its testing to about 40,000 to 50,000 tests a week. This would be a significant increase. As of Wednesday, a total of 59,266 patients had been tested since the state began reporting test results nearly seven weeks ago. The first presumptive positive case was reported on March 7, at which point the state had tested 26 people.

The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Service’s director announced new criteria Wednesday intended to expand access for testing at the State Public Health Laboratory. This allows all patients and staff in a nursing home or other congregate facility with a large number of COVID-19 cases to be tested if it’s approved by the department.

Parson and Kelly spoke with Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. Listen to their entire conversation here.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman was the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3.
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