Kansas agencies to reopen June 13 with face masks required for visitors, employees

By: - May 12, 2021 10:43 am

A new memo from Kansas Department of Administration secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace outlines policies for the reopening of state agencies. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration revealed plans Wednesday for state agencies to return to normal operations on June 13.

State offices have been closed or provided limited public access for more than a year because of the threat posed by COVID-19. The governor’s office said the availability of vaccinations and rapid testing combined with declining numbers of infections make it safe for workers to return to offices full time.

All visitors and employees will be required to wear a face covering inside state offices.

A directive from Administration secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace discourages agencies from allowing employees to continue to work from home. Agency leaders who make exceptions should be mindful of equity issues, Burns-Wallace said, and must provide a written policy.

“While many employees have been required to work remotely to varying degrees over the course of this pandemic, this was due to public health and safety issues, not for the convenience of employees,” Burns-Wallace said.

Face coverings will be required inside buildings, including in stairwells, restrooms, elevators and break rooms, except when actively eating or drinking or working alone in an enclosed space. Agencies will have a small supply of face masks available for employees or visitors who arrive without one.

Agencies also may resume business-related travel as of June 13, except to high-risk locations identified by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The restricted list currently includes Colorado counties, New York and several other states, and an assortment of foreign countries.

KDHE has reported 5,029 Kansans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic reached the state in March of 2020, including the addition of 13 deaths between Monday and Wednesday. More than 310,000 cases have been confirmed.

However, numbers of new infections have declined dramatically as more than 2 million doses of vaccines have now been administered in Kansas.

Burns-Wallace’s memo says new guidelines were developed in consultation with KDHE, and that all state employees will have been offered the vaccine by the end of May.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.