A neon sign glows the word 'Open'

A neon "Open" sign glows in the dark. Opinion columnist Jamie Hawley encourages Kansans to continue practicing social distancing despite plans to reopen the state. 

Opinion

On Thursday night, Gov. Laura Kelly announced her plan to reopen the state of Kansas. According to this plan, the earliest we could see a total relaxation of extra regulations would be June 15, although moving between the phases, each of which determines which businesses can open and how many people can gather, is dependent on meeting certain milestones relating to rates of infection, hospitalization and death.

While it’s encouraging that a plan is in place to return to some semblance of normalcy, the fact remains that the dates outlined in this plan are not guaranteed. What’s more, just because we move from one phase to the next doesn’t mean it’s time for a drastic change in behavior. Just because you can have a 30-person party doesn’t mean you should.

I’m incredibly grateful for Kelly. Her response to this crisis has been measured and compassionate. I shudder to think about what the state of Kansas would look like under different leadership. Despite this, we’re still lagging behind when it comes to necessary testing for COVID-19. Without this testing infrastructure, we can’t know how bad things really are, and reopening without this information would be deadly.

Kelly knows this and moving between phases is contingent on meeting national guidelines. But, as citizens, we should also use this information to motivate us to do whatever we can to stop the spread, even if that means being stricter with ourselves than the guidelines require.

Look, we’re all champing at the bit to get out of here, this, everything. No one is having a good time right now. But we have to be patient. In order to prevent the deaths of thousands of people, we not only have to follow the state guidelines to a T, but we should be overly cautious whenever possible.

It’s important to help out local businesses whenever we can, but if you want food, order it to-go even if the dining room is open. Wear masks and stay six feet apart even if you’re only hanging out with a few friends. In fact, please stop hanging out with friends. I know you say you’ll stay six feet apart. I do not believe you. Don’t use grocery shopping as an excuse to get out of the house. We have to stop looking for loopholes in these restrictions and defending our actions with the word “technically.” There is too much at risk here. If we are more extreme right now, fewer people will die in the coming months. 

It’s tempting, so tempting, to see this as the light at the end of the tunnel, and to some extent, it is. And I know the situation is damaging to mental health, and I would never want to make light of this legitimate suffering. But we must be patient, and we must be vigilant. Study the governor’s plan, but understand we have a long way to go before we’re out of the woods. Pace yourself. Take care of yourself. And most importantly, keep taking care of one another — from six feet apart.

Jamie Hawley is a senior from Salina studying English, political science and communications. 

Edited by Elise Lindemann