Continuing mask order in Johnson County, Kansas, will go up for debate this week

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OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County, Kansas, leaders will consider whether to keep requiring residents to wear masks this week. It comes after a county commissioner falsely claimed the mask mandate had already been lifted.

ShananiGanns Boutique in Shawnee is chock full of unique items. Tucked in with all the merchandise are row after row of face masks.

“We have masks for first communions, for weddings, for every high school and grade school,” said ShananiGanns owner Kristina Gann Albright.

Sales of the coverings have helped lift the small business up after losses suffered during the stay-at-home orders when its doors were closed.

“Anything that’ll make them have fun, make them want to wear the mask, because 99.9% of us don’t love these things at all, and it’s actually been a good time — a blessing in disguise,” Gann Albright said.

While masks have become controversial, Gann Albright said her staff and customers have adjusted well and haven’t had a single case of COVID-19 related to the shop since the pandemic began.

“We’ll continue to wear the masks until we get an absolute free and clear, good to go and then we’ll take them all off — if that day ever comes!” she said.

But mask requirements in Johnson County are once again up for debate. County commissioner Mike Brown posted to social media, indicating the mandate is over.

The governor’s office and county said because the state agreed to extend Gov. Laura Kelly’s emergency declaration, the mask order, which only goes away if explicitly rescinded or without a state of emergency, will continue through at least Oct. 15.

“Yes, the mask mandate is still in effect,” said Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert. “Now, counties have the ability to move away from that emergency order. But until that happens, the masking order is in effect and is in effect in Johnson County right now.”

The commission will take public comment and vote on whether to opt out of the mask order this Thursday.  

Eilert believes that based on all the medical advice the county’s gotten that it’s wise to continue the mandate.

“I think it’s important we take a step like that, continue the masking to protect the spread of the virus amongst community members,” Eilert said.

The commission meeting is at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. A group opposed to the mask order is holding an “Unmask JoCo KS Rally” starting at 8:30 a.m. Organizers of that event were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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