KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mayor Quinton Lucas has ordered that, effective Monday, June 29, face masks will be mandatory for all employees or visitors in public places.
Health officials say as Kansas City and the surrounding region has reopened, many people aren’t wearing face masks, something the CDC strongly recommends.
Now, Kansas City leaders will make it a requirement for those in public spaces.
The order says people in Kansas City must wear a mask in public areas or while performing an activity requiring close contact to co-workers or the public where 6 feet social distancing isn’t feasible.
This includes — but is not limited to — grocery and retail stores, special events and public transit.
However, part of Lucas’ latest order eliminates the capacity limits for businesses in Kansas City, effective Monday — except for bars and taverns.
The city said all businesses can refuse entry and service to customers who are not wearing masks.
“Our country’s leading health and scientific experts have indicated in no uncertain terms that mask-wearing is the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Lucas said in a statement.
“Case numbers in Kansas City continue to rise, and we are taking all steps we can to ensure public health and safety,” he continued. “I know wearing masks can be uncomfortable, but this is a necessary step to ensure we can save lives and keep our economy open. We wear masks to protect our loved ones, those around us, and their loved ones.”
There will be some exceptions to the mask mandate, Lucas said, including:
- Minors, though the CDC and the Kansas City Health Department urge children over the age of 2 to wear a mask.
- People who have disabilities that prevent them from comfortably wearing or taking off face coverings or communicating while wearing one.
- People who have respiratory conditions or breathing trouble.
- People who have been told by a medical, legal or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings.
- People who are seated in a restaurant or tavern while actively engaged in eating or drinking — and are socially distanced from others.
The new order for face masks will continue through July 12.
Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City Health Department, previously said he knows people don’t like wearing masks, but argued it’s for the greater good of public health.
“Now is it inconvenient? Absolutely. Do I not like wearing one? Absolutely. I like my air conditioning, but it’s necessary,” he said Thursday.
Archer pointed to two employees of a Springfield hair salon who continued working while experiencing symptoms and later tested positive for the virus.
None of the dozens of customers or coworkers they exposed over those days at work tested positive for COVID-19. They were all wearing masks and cleaning surfaces.
Archer said it’s an example of how well masks work to stop the spread.
As local health leaders have discussed the mask mandate, Johnson County, Kansas, has shown resistance.
Johnson County Health Director Dr. Samni Areola said he supports wearing masks in public, but doesn’t agree with making it a requirement. Instead, he wants to increase education about their importance and how they save lives.
Leaders in Joplin also recently rejected a proposal to require masks.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said it’s up to local officials to decide whether to require face masks, and if citizens don’t like the decision, they can respond during elections.
Kansas City’s announcement comes on the heels of many counties — and even several states — across the state taking the same action.
Just this month, North Carolina and California, along with areas like Palm Beach, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and Scottsdale, Arizona, have made masks mandatory in public spaces.
The move also comes shortly after Missouri and Kansas recorded some of their largest increases of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
On Wednesday, Kansas saw its largest jump in coronavirus cases in more than six weeks, an increase of more than 500 cases in two days.
Gov. Laura Kelly urged municipalities to delay reopening, despite the fact that she ended statewide mandated restrictions nearly a month earlier on May 26.
In Missouri, the state health department reported 19,421 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, a 9.5% increase in the last seven days.
Testing has vastly increased over the past months, and neither state has reported a major uptick in hospitalizations or deaths at this point.
However, the coronavirus sometimes takes weeks from the point of infection to take its toll, so it’s too early to discount a possibility of more adverse affects.
Parson said officials continue to monitor the numbers, and he remains confident that the state is on the road to recovery. He stressed that he doesn’t think this is a surge or a second wave.
His comments directly contrasted Archer’s, who said Missouri is in a second wave. He said he expects a second round of increasing deaths because of the new cases.
Counties in the Kansas City metro shattered records for new coronavirus cases on the 100th day of the pandemic. Many of the new cases are linked to long-term care facilities.
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