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Is masking coming back to fight COVID-19 in Kansas? What health leaders are saying

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Are masks coming back to tame the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases in Kansas?

The state reported Monday that confirmed delta variant cases increased by 20% since Friday, up 158 to 950. State data also showed that Kansas averaged 440 new COVID-19 cases for the seven days ending Monday

Kansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Lee Norman told KMBC-TV on Monday that guidance could be coming soon.

“We will definitely issue guidance that we hope that the counties and most especially the school boards take seriously, and it will include masks,” he said.

Norman said that they will be as responsive and give as much lead time as possible.

Already in Johnson County, the health department is urging the county’s public schools to require students and staff who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks indoors when classes resume for the fall.

“I think that states and county’s local governments are going to have to take a hard look at their community members and make changes based off of what may be needed, and we know masking is a really easy way to stop the transmission of this,” said Lance Williamson, infection prevention and control nurse supervisor at KU Health System.

In Sedgwick County, the rolling 14 day average of positive cases is 6.3% It is the highest it has been since February.

KSN News reached out to Wichita Public Schools about masks. The district back-to-school plan has masks listed as being optional. The district said they will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity in the community.

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended for anyone over age 2 wear masks this fall, even if they have been vaccinated. The CDC’s K-12 guidance has only emphasized mask wearing for those who are not fully vaccinated, as well as keeping unvaccinated students at a three feet distance.

Shelby Rebeck, director of Health Services for the Shawnee Mission School District, discussed those guidelines with doctors during The University of Kansas Health System daily medical update.

“We all know that masking works. However, we also know the challenge to that is that you know about 50% of our parents don’t want their children masked, the school year so we definitely have our work cut out for us to figure out what the best path forward,” said Rebeck.

“It’s a good recommendation. I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to help prevent COVID spread so logistically totally get it, and that’s, that’s going to be a challenge. Unfortunately, there is resistance to wanting to wear a mask, but it’s the right thing for our kids to keep them safe,” said Dr. Nathan Bahr, infectious diseases.

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