Jackson County has decided to relax stay-at-home restrictions and begin to reopen after May 11, five days earlier than planned.
County Executive Frank White Jr., in coordination with officials from Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, announced the revised end date Friday morning. The county had said just Wednesday afternoon it was maintaining a May 15 end date. Friday’s announcement in Kansas City, Kansas did not include specifics of a phased-in reopening, as it’s still being finalized. Jackson County officials said the plan will largely mirror those of its Kansas neighbors, and those details are expected in the coming days.
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said she was not part of the discussion on rolling back the stay-at-home order, and while she’s not opposed to it outright, she doesn’t know exactly how lifting restrictions will look in the city.
“I’m not questioning it; we just don’t have the information on it,” Weir said. “I’m happy there was some coordination between Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Jackson County, but it puts us in an awkward position. It will make for a busy weekend.”
The mayor said while she generally tries to align with neighboring cities, she did not plan to have something similar to the “10-10-10” plan Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas unveiled Wednesday.
Under that plan, most facilities will be limited to 10 percent of maximum building occupancy or 10 people – whichever is larger – and must record names and contact information of those on the premises for more than 10 minutes, for possible contact tracing purposes.
Weir said her early feedback from that is it would not be feasible for many businesses, though she worries about potential confusion with businesses in areas split by the Independence-Kansas City border, such as along U.S. 40.
Jackson County residents have been invited to help finalize reopening and recovery plans by taking a brief survey on the county’s website at www.jacksongov.org.
White said the community’s cooperation with the “unprecedented restrictions” announced a month ago has undoubtedly saved lives, and local hospitals have become overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, but he and others said people must maintain caution.
“The fight against COVID-19 is not over,” White said. “COVID 19 is still in our community.”
Likewise, Weir said that no matter how and when restrictions are lifted, it’s important to continue good practices in the near future such as social distancing, wearing masks out in public and hand hygiene – lest the pandemic make another big spike and restrictions have to be tightened again.
“Let’s not lose our focus on why we were doing this in the first place,” she said.