Kansas health secretary wanted to keep state COVID-19 limits

Dr. Lee Norman regrets Gov. Kelly lifted statewide coronavirus restrictions on businesses.

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May 29, 2020 - 5:14 PM

Dr. Lee Norman Photo by Jim McLean / Kansas News Service / kcur.org

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s top public health administrator acknowledged Friday that he would have preferred that she not lift statewide coronavirus restrictions on businesses and said local officials shouldn’t allow bars and nightclubs to reopen yet.

Dr. Lee Norman, state secretary of health and environment, said he advised Kelly on “public health principles” before she acted Tuesday to end statewide restrictions that would have kept bars and nightclubs from reopening and would have limited mass gatherings. Health officers in each of the state’s 105 counties now decide the rules, though they can refer to her plan for reopening the economy in phases for guidance.

The Democratic governor faced weeks of criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature that she was moving too slowly to reopen the economy. Lawmakers passed a sweeping coronavirus bill that would have curbed her power to direct the state’s response. She vetoed it Tuesday before conceding to GOP leaders’ demand to allow counties to set their own rules for businesses.

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