Some local businesses got a break Thursday — others did not — when Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued some new regulations regarding who can open and who must stay closed at least until Phase 2 of the Ad Astra reopening plan takes effect.
Kelly’s new order will allow barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons to reopen as planned Monday, but by appointment only.
Gym and fitness centers won’t be allowed to have group classes or use their locker rooms for anything other than bathroom facilities. Local officials can issue stricter rules, however.
Bars, night clubs and bowling alleys will remain closed until at least June 1 under Kelly’s new order, and summer camps, fairs and festivals would not be allowed until at least June 15.
Nancy McGinnis of Hair Perfections in Winfield said she is “very excited to be reopening. It’s been a long time coming.”
McGinnis said she has been working to sterilize everything in her shop. She’s put out wipes by the door so those entering the building can wipe off the door knob before going inside.
McGinnis said she will wear a mask and will have masks for customers.
“They (the state) asked us to throw out all the magazines, so they are all gone,” McGinnis said. “I keep trying to think of what else I need to do to keep everybody safe.”
She’s already booked up for the first two weeks the shop is open.
“People have been making their appointments for a long time,” she said.
Mika Graham, who has owned the Ionic Salon in Arkansas City for many years, is also excited to be reopening on Monday. Her staff will be very happy to have their clients back, she said.
She has also been working to make sure that the salon follows all the safety regulations.
“People can’t come inside to wait for their appointment. We’ll go outside and get them,” she said.
Because she has 12 hairdressers on staff, they will stagger their days off so they don’t violate the 10-person limit.
As for the cleaning and sterilizing, she said, that is part of the daily work of the shop.
“Anyone who knows me knows I am all about keeping things clean,” she said.
A telephone message at The Shear Point said it plans to reopen May 18.
Cindy’s School of Dance and Gymnastics of Ark City will not open during May, owner Cindy Bennett said.
“We’re playing it safe,” she said, taking it one day at a time. “We want to keep everybody safe.”
One of her biggest challenges is keeping the children six feet apart.
“They don’t understand it,” she said.
Rick Doffing, owner of Hillcrest Lanes in Ark City, said he wasn’t happy about not being able to open, though like Bennett, he said the little kids are the hardest to control, so they would present a challenge to following the safety requirements.
Doffing said the biggest problem he’s seen with the whole shutdown process is that the government has not made sure that those who have been ordered to shut down have the money to keep them going.
“We’ve been shut down for six weeks,” Doffing said, “so we have no money coming in to pay the bills. I think if the government says a business has to shut down, it should be given priority to make sure they can continue.”
He said they just received financial assistance from the state this week. They are also waiting to receive money to help meet the payroll.
Efforts to find out plans for the Ark City and Winfield recreation centers were unsuccessful Friday.
No one answered calls to several local bars.
Cowley County Public Health Officer Thomas Langer some criticism of the reopening plans is being directed locally, “even though I do not control the governor, nor does she consult with me.”
Businesses allowed to reopen Monday, such as salons, are relieved that they still can, allaying his fears of a strong backlash had they been kept closed.
“I had hoped that we would have been able to proceed to Phase 2,” Langer said, “but am happy we didn’t move backward or stay in the same place.”
As of Friday afternoon, Cowley County reported just five positive cases overall and just two currently active.
More than 400 people had been tested.
“Yet, we are being dealt the same hand as if we had a severe caseload, which thankfully we have not,” Langer added.
Several residents have voiced “disgust” at having to stay idle and urged him to issue a statement saying people should act in their own interests.
Langer said he understand their point of view, but would never do that, because it would violate his oath of office, derived through Kansas law.
“Even though that seems to be in debate in the social media and on the 24-hour news networks,” he added.
The battle against the virus, Langer said, is far from over.
Asked about casinos opening in Oklahoma, Langer said he advises local residents to avoid them.
“I am not trying to squelch your happiness, just trying to keep the illness out of our county,” he said. “I hope people remember to think of others and not just themselves.”
The Associated Press and CourierTraveler Publisher David A. Seaton contributed to this story.