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Kansas governor’s statewide mask order overturned by legislative leaders

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Legislative leaders revoked Gov. Laura Kelly’s new mask order she issued on Thursday by a vote of 5-2.

Kelly’s order Thursday required people to wear masks indoors at businesses and public spaces and outdoors when they can’t socially distance.

State law gives counties the final say, but her order meant that elected county commissions had to vote to set less restrictive rules or opt-out. The order was similar to a mask policy Kelly issued in November.

Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, issued the following joint statement revocation:

Public health mandates should be short-term, data-driven and reserved only for pressing emergency situations. They should not be used to dictate Kansans’ daily lives year after year. If data is the real driver behind the Governor’s approach, then let’s rely on the numbers. In November, the Governor issued her last statewide mask mandate saying there was a “worrying spike” in cases. At that time, Kansas had 5,217 new cases and a 7-day average of 2,430 new cases. Now, Kansas has only 36 new cases and a 7-day average of 216 cases.

Kansans have banded together for over a year to successfully reduce the spread of COVID – and they’ve done so during a time when most counties had opted out of the Governor’s mask mandate. With cases dropping and no data to support the need for another statewide mandate, the best approach has proven to be local control. We support the continued ability of communities to tailor solutions that work for them, and we urge all Kansans to continue to practice recommended measures of infection control for their health and the health of those around them.

– House Republican leadership

However, there is a divide among lawmakers when it comes to the order. Most Republican lawmakers are not in favor. Democrats are reminding people to stay safe.

“My biggest concern is that it will send the wrong signal to people. That people will think it’s okay to get back to business as usual. And that’s not the case at all. I mean, we are getting COVID under control, we’re getting close to the end. But, we still need to practice the CDC guidelines for just a little longer,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita.

The governor issued several executive orders. The Legislative Coordinating Council took no action on the other 12.

Gov. Kelly says it is to ensure Kansas can maintain critical pandemic response efforts to keep Kansans healthy, keep businesses open, and keep kids in school.

“Since the pandemic began, my administration has been laser-focused on supporting and protecting our communities and our economy,” Kelly said in a news release. “Extending these orders will ensure that our efforts will not have been wasted, and that Kansans and businesses don’t lose the resources they need to get back to normal.” 

The orders Governor Kelly issued extend provisions put in place by previous executive orders and include some updated provisions. The full list is below.

Several executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic were set to expire Wednesday in conjunction with the expiration of the state of disaster emergency. Senate Bill 40 includes a provision that revoked all executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday, but the Governor retains the authority to re-issue orders under the new process imposed by the bill.

The following orders will generally remain in effect until rescinded or until the statewide state of disaster emergency expires, whichever is earlier:

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