In spite of a legislator’s concern that personal protective equipment — also known as PPE — isn’t getting to nursing homes, Governor Kelly has instructed her administration to refuse legislative requests for information.

At a press conference on Sept. 22, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said her administration is “… working with the lawmakers who are part of the Joint Emergency Management Interim Committee,” to make changes to House Bill 2016, which limited many of her powers in the event of an emergency declaration.

At a meeting of that very same committee, just a day later, State Senator Dennis Pyle, (R-Wichita) derided that statement.

Pyle handed out an email chain in which he asked Legislative Research to obtain information about purchases of PPE by the state from the Adjutant General’s Office.

The request was for “A detailed listing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) purchased by the Adjutant General’s Department in relation to the latest disaster, requests for PPE from the Adjutant General’s Department from each entity, those requests that were fulfilled, those that were not, and those that were sent back. If there are any details about the entity requesting the PPE, especially if they were schools.”

Pyle said he sent the request in part because he had heard nursing homes —  which have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic — in a colleague’s district were unable to obtain PPE from the Adjutant General, while a new program makes PPE available to businesses.

The Adjutant General’s (TAG) responded to the request from Legislative Research on Sept. 10. 

“The governor’s office has directed us not to provide any detail for the question they ask. If you have any questions please contact Will (Lawrence, chief of staff to Kelly.)” 

Pyle questioned Lawrence about the governor’s claim.

“How can I make policy about PPE when I don’t even know what’s available?” Pyle said. “I guess, Will, what I want to know, is how the governor makes the statement that she’s working with us when clearly she has told TAG not to respond to our request.

“We depend on data and information here. We cannot make the kind of decisions we have to make unless we are informed.”

In the email chain Lawrence claimed finding the information Pyle requested would require “… a massive undertaking of staff time to provide,” and we would “… have to pull staff off of other tasks to pull this information and complete this analysis. Second, the requested information is sensitive operational and tactical information for the state during its emergency response.”

Lawrence claimed in the email, and reiterated in the meeting that putting out a list of what PPE the state has purchased and used would impact the state’s ability to purchase more.”

Lawrence promised to help Pyle get the information he asked for in the meeting, but Pyle said in an email to the Sentinel following the meeting that he’s waiting for action, not words.

“Her office giving direction to withhold information from the legislative committee while she states that she is working with the committee is disingenuous and has the appearance of obstruction,” Pyle wrote. “The governor’s actions speak louder than her words.”

Test kits from China

Some of the “sensitive” supplies, however, would appear to be test kits the Kansas Department of Health and Environment purchased from an unregistered company, which imported them from China.

The Sentinel reported on Sept. 22, 2020, that on April 7, 2020, KDHE issued a purchase order for $3.75 million worth of COVID test kits from OKEC, LLC, but the company wasn’t registered with the Kansas Secretary of State on that date.  OKEC, LLC imported those COVID test kits from China, and KDHE has refused to answer questions about the transaction, including whether the test kits were approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

More mask falsehood

In the Sept. 21 press conference, Kelly again pushed the debunked notion that mask mandates lead to lower COVID infection rates.

“I’m concerned that because of certain legislative leaders, Kansas has been left with a patchwork of local mask mandates instead of a statewide policy instead, like 34 other states.”

Kelly, KDHE, and Lawrence — in Tuesday’s meeting — have all repeatedly pushed the narrative that mask mandates lead to lower death and infection rates.

Lawrence pushed the idea that local governments — like cities, counties, and school districts — should not have the authority to opt-out of state emergency orders.

He pointed to several southern states that adopted statewide mask mandates and their health departments claimed cases have since come down.

However, as the Sentinel reported earlier this summer, KDHE cherry-picked data and actively hid data that shows that mask-mandate counties in Kansas had a large increase in cases after adopting a mandate before they began to taper off — just as they have been doing statewide.

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