TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, noting a repeat of the past on Thursday, signed a State of Disaster Emergency and two executive orders in response to a COVID-19 comeback in the state.

The governor formally announced her new actions to combat the pandemic at 4:15 p.m. at the Kansas Statehouse.

“Just as I did at the start of the pandemic, today I am again issuing orders to provide our hospitals and nursing homes with the necessary staffing flexibility to keep the residents, patients, and staff safe,” Kelly said. “This disaster declaration provides a 15-day solution to give our front-line health care workers the support they need as they battle this COVID-19 surge. This action is temporary until the legislature returns, at which time I will work with them to pass legislation to extend my executive orders through the month of March.”

Read the governor’s full disaster declaration below:

The declaration activates recovery portions of the Kansas Response Plan. It also allows the governor to halt any statutes, rules or regulations that get in the way of “necessary action in coping with the disaster.” The governor’s two executive orders also utilize her power under the disaster declaration:

  • The governor’s first executive order, E.O. 22-01, “provides temporary relief from certain restrictions and requirements governing the provision of medical services.”
  • The second, E.O. 22-02, “relaxes or suspends licensure, certification and registration for persons and licensure of adult care homes.”

The governor said the declaration does not have to do with funding on the state or federal level and will not include sending out the Kansas National Guard. There are no new mandates or closures. Instead, it’s focused on bringing relief to healthcare workers that are being pulled in many directions during the pandemic.

Cindy Samuelson, a spokesperson for the Kansas Hospital Association, told KSNT’s Capitol Bureau recently that some medical workers have had to assist at testing sites, pulling them away from already short-staffed hospitals. Others have had to quarantine due to exposure.

“Our community has to know that the choices they’re making day-to-day are impacting the care that we can provide in communities across Kansas,” Samuelson said. “We need to all do our part, so we can keep our hospitals open, so they can be there 24/7, 365 for any kind of need.”

Referring to a “surge in COVID-19 cases,” the governor’s office said the worst is yet to come. Medical experts predict the higher transmission rate of the Omicron variant will hit Kansans harder into February. According to early data, the new variant is transmissible even among people who have been vaccinated. Still, the governor took the opportunity while announcing the disaster declaration to ask Kansans to get vaccinated and boosted, hoping to reduce the number of severe cases requiring hospitalization.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is also running for governor, also responded to Kelly’s disaster declaration.

“The governor’s use of emergency powers must not again be allowed to get out of hand as happened earlier in the pandemic when she used emergency decrees to order churches, businesses and schools closed and to impost mask mandates,” Schmidt said. “It is good the legislature reconvenes on Monday and will be in session to maintain a watchful eye.”