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Nick’s Picks: Navigating the Age of Coronavirus

Stay-at-Home Order Takes Effect Tuesday

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

Starting Tuesday, the Kansas City area is under an emergency stay-at-home order.

The order will require residents of Kansas City and Johnson, Jackson and Wyandotte counties to remain at home except for activities “essential to the health and safety” of themselves, family members or friends. The order is expected to stay in effect until at least April 24. 

Since that announcement, several neighboring counties on both sides of the state line have joined in, including Platte and Clay counties in Missouri to Leavenworth and Douglas counties in Kansas. The full order can be found here.

“Essential” Dispute

What counts as an essential business? That definition will be tested this week with threats of possible legal action by some businesses upset they’re being required to shut down. 

Liquor stores are considered essential under this new emergency order. But not places of worship. Barber shops and hair salons are not essential, but lawn care companies do meet that definition. Grocery stores and pharmacies are obviously essential, but what about bike repair shops, which many people need for transportation? Apparently, they’re listed as an essential business as well.  What about CBD shops that many count on for pain relief? How about gun stores?

Expect disputes over those questions in the next few days.

Enforcing the Stay-at-Home Order

Quinton Lucas
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Breaking the rules of this latest emergency order in Kansas City is punishable by up to $500 fine and up to six months in jail. But Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says he’s not expecting a strong crackdown by police.

“I do not want them in the position of asking people where they’re going,” Lucas said. Authorities say they are counting on residents to abide by the rules out of social pressure.

This stay-at-home order is an astounding example of bi-state collaboration. At a time when cities and counties in Kansas and Missouri fight over everything from business tax incentives to bus service, it’s remarkable that so many elected leaders came together in so many different jurisdictions to support this.  

Wichita Restaurants

While almost everything is now closed in the metro, just down the road in Wichita, Kansas you may be surprised to learn that many restaurants are still open for dine-in customers.

“I’m not really supportive yet of restricting things further or closing down,” said Pete Meitzner, head of the Board of County Commissioners in Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita.  

Oak Park Mall

Perhaps the biggest indoor space you can still visit in the entire metro area is Oak Park Mall.  Remarkably, the two-story Overland Park shopping center is still open for business, even though most of the stores have shut down.  About a dozen food and restaurant vendors at the mall are still serving customers on a carry-out basis.

Health Appointments

Area dentists are no longer seeing patients for anything other than emergency procedures. And area hospitals are postponing most elective medical procedures in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. So if you have anything from a colonoscopy to a vasectomy coming up, chances are good that procedure will be postponed.

Parking Tickets

Starting this week most parking violations won’t be enforced in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Police Department says cars parked in time zones or at meters will not be ticketed during this state of emergency. But beware, police will still ticket and tow cars blocking intersections, driveways and fire hydrants. You can also expect a ticket if you illegally park in a handicapped space or park in rush hour traffic zones.

Driver’s Licenses

If you live in Kansas and need to get a driver’s license, you’re out of luck…for now. The state has shut down all 116 driver’s license office locations in Kansas for the next two weeks, as a precautionary measure. The state says they’re planning to reopen April 6. 

Free Buses

Kansas City still hasn’t found the money yet, but starting this week RideKC buses all across the metro will be totally free. This applies to bus routes from Independence to Johnson County.  The move is designed to protect drivers and riders by reducing the handling of cash and the touching of surfaces.

No State Lawmakers

The Missouri Capitol is shut down for 10 days after a state representative tested positive for COVID-19.  Kansas lawmakers have adjourned until April 27. This week, Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids continues her self-quarantine at her Roeland Park home after being exposed to another member of Congress with the virus. 

Mood Booster

The glum, rainy weather has added to the feeling of gloom around the metro. But on Wednesday, Kansas City will be flirting with 70 degrees. Last week, when it hit 70, you could barely see a patch of green at Loose Park as hordes of Kansas Citians escaped their homes to enjoy the sunshine.

Royal Delay

This Thursday was supposed to be opening day for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were to be taking on the White Sox in Chicago. Of course, just like so much else, that’s not happening right now. And there’s no word when the Royals season will begin. 

Counting Blessings

While we may concentrate on the things we can’t do right now…there are a blessings to count.

Most of us can still take a hot shower today. Most of us have electricity in our homes, cars to drive, fresh water to drink. And most people face no shortage of food. In fact, you can still get takeout from nearly all of your favorite restaurants. And at last check, liquor stores are still open and doing a thriving business. 

We can walk our dogs, go for a run, ride a bike or hike a trail. 

Most of us have internet connections and televisions that allow us to keep ourselves occupied in countless different ways. 

This past week, my 20-year-old son joined us in doing a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t remember the last time he did that. When he was in grade school, perhaps? 

Our 17-year-old daughter introduced us to a new board game, called Code Names. And all of us played it, late into the night.

And everyone in the family is finding creative ways to use our new air fryer. From making our own donuts to crispy asparagus. 

My wife and I did our own bake-off challenge. She made braided bread. I made Welsh cakes.

This too shall pass. We’re all in this together. And in the meantime, let’s celebrate the things we can do. 

And let me finish with the advice from one of the area’s top mental health leaders, Johnson County Mental Health Director Tim DeWeese, 

“Let’s think physical distancing not social distancing.  We all need one another.”

See Nick Haines, Friday night’s at 7:30 p.m. on KCPT’s primetime public affairs program, “Kansas City Week in Review.

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