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Gov. Kelly: U.S. Government 'Not Prepared' For Coronavirus Outbreak

Gov. Laura Kelly

TOPEKA – Gov. Laura Kelly said the U.S. government was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and that Kansas hasn't gotten needed supplies despite multiple requests approved since mid-March.

Kelly said Kansas has sought “hundreds of thousands of everything,” including masks, gloves, gowns and testing kits, to deal with the outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19. The state also has been overwhelmed by questions and claims from jobless workers seeking unemployment benefits.

Kelly, a Democrat, expressed her frustrations Thursday with President Donald Trump's administration as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Kansas rose nearly 15% in a single day, to 552.

Asked about requested supplies, Kelly said, “The shipments have just not come in,” and that she and other governors “haven’t really gotten a good answer” as to why.

Her remarks were her most pointed to date, coming after her stay-at-home order took effect Monday.

“They didn’t have the stockpiles on hand to meet the demand when the demands came, and then, quite honestly, whatever system they have for delivery isn’t working,” Kelly said. “I think, honestly, they just were not prepared.”

Trump said this week that his administration was waging “all-out war to defeat the virus" and is backing up governors.

“And there’s never been a backup like we’ve given them,” he said.

But Kelly disagreed, saying the U.S. government "just didn’t take (the outbreak) seriously enough soon enough.”

“And I think we’re all paying the price for that now."

The virus' toll on the economy was evident in new data showing that unemployment benefit claims in Kansas increased to 54,739 for the week ending March 28, up from 25,563 the prior week.

That’s a sharp spike from last year when there were 1,508 new claims for the week ending March 30, 2019, and 1,271 the week before that.

The state is using Amazon Web Services, re-activating retired employees, rehiring workers previously laid off and bringing in workers from other parts of the Kansas Department of Labor, upping the number of workers from 21 to 70 eventually.

Kelly acknowledged that people are having trouble filing their claims because of the volume. “For that, I’m sorry,” she said.

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