Shelter-in-place orders are about to take effect for about a third of Kansas’ population to slow the spread of coronavirus, and Governor Laura Kelly announced Monday that she will tighten restrictions on public gatherings.

Four counties with nearly 1 million of the state’s 2.9 million residents have said they were telling residents to stay home except for essential business, such as buying food or seeking medical care. They include Johnson County, which is the state’s most populous county, two other neighboring counties in the Kansas City area, and Douglas County, which is home to the main University of Kansas campus.

Kelly also said she would issue an executive order Tuesday that will ban public gatherings of more than 10 people.  Kelly last week banned gatherings of more than 50 people, but President Donald Trump’s administration recommended the tougher restriction.

Kelly said she is not yet issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order as governors have done in some other states, including California, Illinois,Massachusetts, Michigan and New York, because 89 of Kansas’ 105 counties had yet to see a confirmed coronavirus case as of Monday morning. But she warned that such an order could become “unavoidable in the coming days.”

“Confirmed, positive cases are expected to tick upward at a rapid pace over the next 10 days,” Kelly said during a Statehouse news conference.  “The crisis continues to evolve by the hour.”

Kansas has confirmed more than 80 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That’s an increase of at least 18 since Sunday. It has had two COVID-19-related deaths, one in Johnson County and the other in neighboring Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area.  Dr. Lee Norman, the state’s health secretary, said he expects Kansas to have between 300 and 400 confirmed cases by the end of March.

Norman said Friday that the state was close to running out of testing kits, which would force it to rely on private labs for testing. But he said the state obtained enough kits Saturday to test 700 patients, which should last into next week.

Douglas County, which includes the college town of Lawrence, announced Sunday that its shelter-in-place order will take effect Tuesday, matching orders issued in the Kansas City-area’s Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. The orders are all set to remain in place until April 23.

Among those with the virus is someone who works at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center, officials said Monday. The VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System called the risk of transmission to other patients and staff low.

The Wichita Eagle reported that Sedgwick County staffers were preparing an order that could be issued later for Wichita, the state’s largest city.

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