WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As the positivity rate rises, the city and county are discussing ways to slow the spread. Is a mask mandate back on the table?

Community leaders said a mask mandate is unlikely. Instead, masks are highly encouraged. Vaccines, according to doctors, are the best way to fight this new wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Right now, I’m just not sure if we are doing as good a job as we could telling folks what’s happening right here in our community,” said Mayor Brandon Whipple.   

What is happening? Dr. Lowell Ebersole, Wesley’s chief medical officer, paints a powerful picture.

“90% of today’s patients are unvaccinated, and that’s been very consistent, and unfortunately, this number actually increases even more so for those patients that have died from COVID. We’re at 97% of COVID deaths being occurring in patients that are unvaccinated,” said Ebersole.

In just over a month, the positivity rate in Sedgwick County has nearly doubled. A number that health experts say this can continue to rise. 

“To answer your question, we’re not at the peak yet. We’re still in the ascending phase,” said Dr. Sam Antonios, Ascension Via Christi chief clinical officer.

Mayor Whipple said the city’s focus has shifted from mask mandates to encouraging more people to get vaccinated.

“Doing more to try to increase access to vaccines so that folks who would like to be vaccinated who can be protected from severe illness,” added Whipple. 

Sedgwick County Commissioner Sarah Lopez said vaccine rates have been stagnant and more needs to be done.

“That’s really what we need is we need our community to come together. Put the masks on and slow this down,” said Lopez.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, doctors said mask-wearing is an important tool to protect yourself, but their primary focus will be on getting more people vaccinated.