Jackson County to issue health order requiring masks indoors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. announced Wednesday that he will issue a public health order requiring universal mask-wearing in indoor public places for people 5 and older, regardless of vaccination status.

The health order aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Jackson County Health Department and is supported by Jackson County public school district superintendents and the region’s chief medical officers.

Jackson County said the health order is in response to the rising number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations due, in part, to the highly-contagious Delta variant and the area’s low vaccination rates.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have relied upon our public health and medical professionals to provide us with the data and guidance that we need to make informed decisions based on science and not on politics,” White said. “Wearing a mask may not be fun, but it is our best shot at preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed, keeping our businesses open and our kids in school.”

According to a new state law, a public health order is now limited to 30 days. Any extension of this order beyond 30 days will require the support of a majority of the Jackson County Legislature.

Considering the changes to the state law and to provide businesses an opportunity to plan accordingly, Jackson County’s order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, August 9.

“Medical professionals are begging us to behave responsibly. So am I,” said 2nd District At-Large Legislator Crystal Williams. “Please mask up indoors and protect our children.”

During the pandemic, White and other county officials have met regularly with Jackson County school superintendents to discuss the status of the virus and our collective response.

Following this week’s meeting, which included a detailed presentation by the Jackson County Health Department recommending universal masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status, the area superintendents voiced their support for the county reinstating a mask mandate in light of increased case numbers, the strain on hospitals and the CDC’s recommendation.

“It’s important this school year for LSR7 to demonstrate leadership in keeping students and staff safe – not be reactionary,” said Megan Marshall, Lee’s Summit School Board Vice President. “Requiring masking within our buildings and continuing to be creative about encouraging families to get vaccinated, aligns with the recommendations by leading scientific experts at the CDC and our local health professionals.”

“With COVID-19 cases increasing again in Jackson County, diligent mask use and a commitment by our community to get vaccinated will ensure our students remain in the classroom this school year,” said Rodrick Sparks, Lee’s Summit School Board Member.

This comes after Kansas City issued a mask mandate orders that went into effect Monday, Aug. 2 and ends Aug. 28.

On Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued Kansas City in an effort to end the city’s mask mandate. The lawsuit claims the mandate is unreasonable and unconstitutional.

The Jackson County health order will not override Kansas City’s mask mandate order. Independence, which has its own health department, will also not be required to follow the mask mandate.

“I think it’s a really good idea, I think more people need to get vaccinated, if they are not willing to, we need to wear masks again. “I was actually just in New York and it felt safer there because people were more responsible there than Kansas City about the masks and being vaccines and everything,” said Kyle Wornelduff who lives in Jackson County.

“It’s just theater and stupid. I don’t see how the masks mandate again is going to solve any problems. Why don’t they leave us alone?,” said John Allen, who is against another mask mandate.

The Delta variant is causing significant spread and outbreaks in Jackson County, amplified by the lower vaccination rate. Infected individuals are found to have up to 1,000 times more virus in their respiratory tracts. Additionally, individuals become infected sooner than with other variants and the ancestral strain.

The latest data from the Jackson County Health Department shows:
• Daily new cases have nearly tripled in one month. The 7-day average of daily new cases was 43.14 the week of June 27. It increased to 117.71 the week of July 25.
• The percent positive has exceeded 15% for the first time since January 2021 when the virus was surging. It nearly doubled in one month reaching 16.42% the week of July 25.
• Hospitalizations across the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Region are up 75% compared to last month. On July 27, the region saw 151 new hospitalizations in a single day, a level not seen since January 2021. The vast majority of those hospitalized are not fully vaccinated and several hospitals, including Children’s Mercy, are on high volume.
• Truman Medical Centers/University Health reported nine deaths in the last two weeks, all of whom were unvaccinated. They account for 75% of all COVID deaths in July at TMC/UH.

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