There are 49 state governments that update their coronavirus case totals at least five times a week. And then there is Kansas, which forgoes updates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends.
As Kansas’ case numbers surge to record levels — more than 4,000 infections have been announced already this month, including spikes around Wichita, Lawrence and the Kansas City suburbs — the state sticks out for its opacity.
Since early in the pandemic, Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration has refused to release the names of meatpacking plants tied to thousands of cases, citing privacy concerns. In neighboring Colorado and Missouri, state officials have provided detailed accounts of similar outbreaks.
Officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment use the same reason — patient privacy — for refusing to say which of the state’s 105 counties are reporting coronavirus deaths. All other states have long provided county-level death details. In Kansas, it is up to local officials to decide whether to release that information.
The state government has stuck by its policies even as outbreaks have emerged at Kansas bars, churches and colleges, and as officials in several counties have overturned Ms. Kelly’s order requiring masks.
Until mid-May, Kansas updated its public data every day, like almost every other state. But for nearly two months, state-level updates have come only three times a week. That has left Kansans with less frequent information at the same time that Republicans in the state have tried to curb the emergency authority of Ms. Kelly, a Democrat, and as officials in many counties have disregarded her reopening plan.
Kristi Zears, a state health department spokeswoman, said the decision to cut back on public updates allowed officials to focus on other aspects of the coronavirus response, and that it had not slowed the pace of case investigations.
“With the increasing number of outbreaks and increasing requests from local health departments to assist with case investigations and contact tracing, we shifted more focus on assisting counties,” Ms. Zears said in an email.