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Kansas salons and gyms wonder why they can’t reopen, too

May 2, 2020 GMT
In this photo from Friday, May 1, 2020, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic and her plan to reopen the state’s economy in an interview with The Associated Press at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Most businesses in Kansas can reopen starting Monday, but operators of those left out of the initial phase are questioning why. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
In this photo from Friday, May 1, 2020, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly discusses the coronavirus pandemic and her plan to reopen the state’s economy in an interview with The Associated Press at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Most businesses in Kansas can reopen starting Monday, but operators of those left out of the initial phase are questioning why. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — As many Kansas shops and restaurants prepare to reopen for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown, the owners of bars, salons and some other types of businesses are wondering why they must still keep their doors closed.

Gov. Laura Kelly is lifting a statewide stay-at-home order effective Monday as part of a gradual step to reopen the state’s economy, allowing certain nonessential businesses, including dine-in restaurants and retail shops, to open. But her plan prohibits bars, gyms, theaters, barbershops, hair and nail salons or state-owned casinos from opening until at least May 18.

Eric Fisher employs 100 hairdressers in Wichita. He recently opened a fourth salon in downtown Wichita and said “it just breaks my heart” to see it sit idle. He wonders why Kelly’s order allows dentists to operate, but not salons.

“My people want to get back to work,” he said. “Work dignifies you.”

He added: “It’s not healthy to sit home — it’s just not — unless you have things to do, and I think we’ve all run out of those.”

The Democratic governor has been under pressure from the Republican-controlled Legislature to lift restrictions in the wake of a surge of claims for unemployment benefits and expectations of a sharp drop in state revenue.

Kelly, in an interview with The Associated Press, defended her decision to leave out some businesses in the initial reopening phase.

“It’s not something we did lightly,” Kelly said. “We had multiple conversations with all different kinds of industry sectors, including the barbers and cosmetologists. There are other types of businesses where close physical contact is necessary in order to perform the service. We wanted to err on the side of caution with that and not put folks in that situation where they could not that keep that social distancing.”

Heather Kuder, who operates a small fitness center in Carbondale, near Topeka, said she has always made sure that the strength-training machines, free weights and cardio equipment were sanitized, even before the pandemic. Because the center is in a small town, complying with social distancing guidelines would not be a problem, she said.

Kuder said businesses should be allowed to work with local officials to develop a plan to operate safely. Besides, she noted, consumers will avoid any businesses that aren’t taking the proper precautions.

“That would force business owners to do a good job, because people will make decisions with their feet,” she said.

The reopening doesn’t apply to Kansas’ two largest counties, which are both in suburban Kansas City. Johnson and Wyandotte counties each issued stay-at-home orders through May 10. Those two counties together account for about three-quarters of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths.

The state health department on Saturday reported 4,746 confirmed coronavirus cases, which was an increase of 297 from Friday. One more death was reported, bringing the total to 131 since the pandemic began in March. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher, though, because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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