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Kansas City reinstates indoor mask mandate

Kansas City has reinstated its indoor mask mandate for individuals who are at least 5 years old — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — for the month of August. 

The new order follows on the heels of a similar mandate in St. Louis and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending vaccinated individuals don a face covering in areas of substantial or high transmission. The order is in effect from Aug. 2 to Aug. 28 for places of indoor public accommodation. 

Mayor Quinton Lucas pointed to a 15 percent increase in hospitalizations in the Kansas City area over the past week along with a 39 percent vaccination rate as a catalyst for the new order. 

Nearly 1,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and three people have died in Kansas City over the past week, according to the state’s data. Additionally, 175 people have tested positive in Clay County over the past week. 

“As long as transmission continues, variants will continue to develop. We don’t know what the next variant will look like, how virulent it will be, and that should concern everyone,” Kansas City Health Department Deputy Director Frank Thompson said. “Because less than 50 percent of Kansas City is vaccinated, and transmission is still occurring, Kansas Citians should wear a mask according to CDC guidance. The Kansas City metro area has so many jurisdictions, and few people stay in just one to live, work, and play.  No matter where you travel to in the metro, please continue to mask up. This is one important way we can all protect each other.”

“Still, the most effective way to rid COVID-19 from our community is to get vaccinated, and we will continue our efforts to reach all Kansas Citians in all neighborhoods about the importance of taking the vaccine,” Lucas said. 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued St. Louis over its reinstated mask mandate and vowed on social media to do the same in Kansas City before the order was even filed. He argued the orders are “about politics [and] control, not science.” 

Earlier this week, St. Louis city and county implemented an order requiring masks to be worn by all individuals over the age of 5 while indoors. The St. Louis county council voted to overturn the mandate, citing a new law limiting the ability of local leaders to implement health orders, but County Executive Sam Page has maintained the mandate is still in place unless a court overturns it. 

Gov. Mike Parson called the updated CDC guidance “disappointing and concerning.” It recommended vaccinated people in areas of high or substantial transmission risk wear a mask. Only two counties in Missouri do not fall into that category, according to the CDC’s data: Pemiscot and Scotland. 

“It’s disappointing because it is inconsistent with the overwhelming evidence surrounding the efficacy of the vaccines and their proven results. It only serves to disrupt the increases we are seeing in vaccine uptake. This self-inflicted setback encourages skepticism and vaccine hesitancy at a time when the goal is to prevent serious illnesses and deaths from COVID-19 through vaccinations,” Parson said. “It’s concerning because the nation’s top public health agency appears to be cowering to the political pressures of those who only want to force mandates and shutdowns, which only further prolong the recovery. This decision only promotes fear [and] further division among our citizens.” 

More than 11,700 people have tested positive in Missouri over the past week, and 32 people have died. About 50 percent of the adult population in the state has completed vaccination. 

Missouri’s garnered national media attention for an uptick in COVID-19 cases, particularly with the delta variant. 

The Kansas City Health Department offers COVID-19 vaccine clinics at the Health Department (2400 Troost Avenue) each Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The department does accept walk-ins.