Kelly condemns police brutality, institutional racism; state passes 10,000 cases of COVID-19, but data continues to improve
As protests continue across the country highlighting racial inequality and police brutality in the United States, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday that Kansas should use the time of unrest to reflect on how it can operate in a more equitable way for all citizens.
Kelly said her heart went out to the families of George Floyd, of Minnesota, who died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police; Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her Kentucky home; Ahmaud Arbery, a Georgia man killed by two white men while jogging; and all black communities around the country “reliving the trauma of violence and systemic racism.”
“Institutional racism exists throughout our society, our economy and our laws,” she said to begin her thrice-weekly COVID-19 briefing. “From our criminal justice system to our educational institutions, to our public health infrastructure, it’s time for elected leaders in Kansas to acknowledge that we have failed to give the problem the attention that it deserves.”
“It’s time that we listen to those voices in our marginalized communities, speak out against injustice and actively address the roots of these issues in our neighborhoods, our workplaces and in our public institutions,” Kelly said.
The governor also praised the response of Kansas law enforcement officers, specifically highlighting police in Lawrence and Wichita who peacefully managed protests over the weekend.
Two days ahead of a legislative special session to revamp the Kansas Emergency Management Act and extend the state’s emergency disaster declaration to fight the pandemic, Kelly — for the first time since vetoing a sweeping piece of legislation a week ago — said she was optimistic about lawmakers reaching a resolution Wednesday.
“I am more encouraged today than I have been in some time that we will sort this out,” she said. “There appears to be a good faith effort on both sides … and this is good news, because we will need healthy dialogue and compromise to deliver an appropriate plan to protect the people of our state.”
Kansas on Monday passed the 10,000 case milestone for confirmed COVID-19 infections, and the cumulative total now sits at 10,011 cases. That’s an increase of 292 cases since the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last released data on Friday.
The state also confirmed nine more deaths attributed to the respiratory virus, which has now killed 217 Kansans since the pandemic began in March. That said, KDHE Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Monday that Kansas continues to progress through the crisis well. Only 13 of the 105 counties in the state are not demonstrating an improving trend line when it comes to how the virus is spreading, he said.
Even the counties in the state that house meatpacking plants and have been struck particularly hard by COVID-19 — Ford, Finney, Seward and Lyon — are improving, Norman said. Several of Kansas’ most populous counties — Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Sedgwick — are improving, as well.
“We’re doing well in the state of Kansas,” he said. “This is really terrific information that shows if people are attentive to doing the things we recommend, that this will show the improvement.”
KDHE is tracking 128 outbreaks of COVID-19, 43 of which are closed. Those outbreaks have accounted for 5,138 cases and 145 deaths and can be traced to the following locations:
• 59 from private industry, 18 of which are closed, resulting in 441 cases and five deaths
• 33 from long-term care facilities, 11 of which are closed, resulting in 722 cases and 111 deaths
• 11 from various gatherings, seven of which are inactive, resulting in 148 cases and 12 deaths
• 10 from meatpacking plants, resulting in 2,729 cases and nine deaths
• Six from group-living arrangements, four of which are closed, resulting in 53 cases and two deaths
• Five from health care facilities, three of which are closed, resulting in 44 cases
• Three from correctional facilities, resulting in 999 cases and six deaths
• Two cases have been traced to a school or day care facility in Ford County, a new addition to the outbreak list, Norman said.
Though the state data continues to track positively, Norman cautioned — as he has throughout the pandemic — that Kansans must continue practicing sound public health measures to keep the data on a positive trend.
“The clusters serve to remind us to remain vigilant,” he said.