Kansas governor directs state agencies to resume remote work

by DailyBriefers
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday directed Kansas state employees to resume working remotely if possible because of the more contagious COVID-19 delta variant.

Kelly’s announcement came after two months of steadily rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases that have stressed hospitals and led some public schools to require masks indoors. Kelly’s directive applies to state agencies under her control; employees must resume remote work by Sept. 3 and continue at least through Oct. 4.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the 17,500 workers under Kelly’s direct control would be covered. But in a memo to state agencies, DeAngela Burns-Wallace, head of the state Department of Administration, said any employee who was able to work remotely earlier should do it again.

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Many state employees spent more than a year working remotely because of the pandemic, with normal operations resuming in June — just 10 days before new COVID-19 cases began to rise again.

“The decision to return to remote work was not made lightly — but we know that this is a necessary step to prevent COVID-19 infections,” Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly also tightened a requirement that employees and visitors wear masks inside state government buildings, imposing the rule in all 105 counties rather than exempting a handful with a low COVID-19 spread.

Kansas averaged 37 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 11 additional deaths and 1,276 new cases overall a day for the seven days ending Wednesday, according to state health department data. Delta variant cases have been confirmed in all but eight counties.

The largest hospital in northeast Kansas, Stormont Vail in Topeka, recently brought a mobile morgue on-site.

“We wanted to be prepared for where the numbers are trending,” spokesperson Cody Tenbrink said in an email.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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