OLATHE, Kan. — A requirement to wear masks in Johnson County, Kansas, will stand.
Johnson County commissioners voted Thursday to continue Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask mandate in public spaces for another four weeks.
After extensive public comment, the commission narrowly voted 4-3 to extend the mask order until at least Oct. 15.
The county’s decision comes after the Republican-led State Finance Council unanimously voted late last week to extend Kelly’s emergency declaration until the same date.
Before the meeting even started, a group rallied outside the courthouse demanding the county “unmask.”
Dozens of Johnson County residents signed up to speak for over four hours before the commissioners made their vote Thursday on whether to stick with the governor or reject the mask mandate.
Opponents of masks were asked to gather on one side of the hallway outside the meeting room while the other side of the hallway was reserved for those wearing masks.
A large group of mask opponents called on the county leaders to reject the requirement, and they have an ally in Commissioner Mike Brown. He doesn’t wear a mask at commission meetings and made news recently for a Facebook post encouraging people to buy guns and defend their freedoms.
“This is a mind control device. This is tyranny. End the mask mandate please. It’s time for us to get back to a real normal,” said Tony Gillette, a resident opposed to the mandate.
“The virus is not a hoax,” mask supporter James Firth said. “It is not going away like magic. It is a reckless driver posing a constant danger to anyone, and reckless kills. Dr. Areola said masks work. Don’t drive drunk. Don’t be reckless. Be patriotic. Wear a mask,” said mask supporter James Firth.
Johnson County’s six public school districts, however, asked commissioners to continue the mask requirement. In a letter, district leaders said face masks are an important tool for getting all Johnson County kids back to the classroom.
County health officials said wearing masks is the most effective and most important way to limit the spread of COVID-19, and also pushed commissioners to continue the mask requirement. They said those infected but without symptoms are responsible for half of all new transmissions of the virus.
Johnson County currently has a positive test rate of 12.4%.