A Soft Opening in Kansas

Compared to many other places in America and around the world, Kansas has largely been spared the worst of the coronavirus. As we write this there are 4,238 confirmed cases and there have been 129 deaths, which is horrible to contemplate but not nearly so bad as what other states have suffered.
There’s no way of telling for sure, but our relatively good results might well have something to do the measures our governor took early on in the crisis. She was the first governor to close all the schools, and among the first to shut down a variety of businesses and gathering places, and several Kansas county and municipal governments followed with similar restrictions. Many critics call the shutdown an overreaction, and there’s no way of telling for sure if they were wrong, but even in such a conservative and liberty-loving and traditionally Republican state as this our Democratic governor currently enjoys betters approval rating ratings than our Republican president.
The restrictions are undeniably irksome, and have some very outspoken if perhaps outnumbered opponents. Kansas has it share of that Gadsen-flag-waving and gun-toting type of self-described patriots who hate America’s government and many of its longstanding institutions and a vast majority of their fellow citizens, and they’ve been particularly irked. Some of them are our Facebook friends, so we daily read their grousing that the harm done to the state’s economy and the liberty of its citizens cannot be justified by a few thousands sickened people and just over 100 deaths. They’re convince they’re immune to the virus and certainly immune to the argument that the toll has been so low because of the measures that were taken, and given the lack of any way to definitively proof that they’ll forever be convinced they’re right.
We doubt they’ll be placated, but Thursday Gov. Laura Kelly took the rare step of interrupting the game shows scheduled for the state’s television station and announced the was beginning a four-phased “soft opening” of the state in the coming months, with hopes that everything will be back to normal in time for the Winfield bluegrass festival and the State Fair and the statewide elections and all the other traditional early fall activities.
The first step starts today, and it’s very tentative, basically allowing restaurants to once again offer table service if they limit their customers to point they can all be “socially distanced” according to federal guidelines, and to allow churches to resume services under similar conditions. The ban on religious services was especially controversial in this more church-going than usual state, and wound up being bitterly fought in the legislature and the courts, but our very conservative and church most churches in the state stopped gathering on Sundays and Wednesdays even before the state required they do so.
Our church has such a small congregation and a such a big building that we might be able to resume worshipping together soon, and in the meantime we’re getting weekly phone calls and e-mails from our fellow congregants and are scheduled to have a gift package dropped on porch today. It looks like it will be a while longer, however, before we can get together with the gang at the Kirby’s Beer Store and quaff a beer and watch “Jeopardy!” and listen to rock ‘n’ roll and life in Kansas gets fully back to normal. That’s damned irksome, but we figure our chances of surviving that are better than our chances of surviving a coronavirus infection.
Kansas has had “clusters” of infections at the meat packing plants that are a big chunk of the state economy and crucial component of the food supply chain that’s somehow kept America fed, as well as nursing homes and in the Lansing State Penitentiary, where the inmates rioted over a lack of health care and the state’s National Guard is helping keep order and conducting testing and provide care, so we could have done better. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including President Donald Trump and all the national and global institutions he’s trying to blame, but we think our state has done fairly well even if there’s no telling for sure.
For now we’ll try to keep sheltering in place and only venture out for essential supplies and to drive around on inexpensive gasoline and enjoy the gorgeous Wichita and Kansas scenery. We don’t mind risking our lives but don’t want to risk any other Kansan’s, and it seems the patriotic thing to do.

— Bud Norman

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