Johnson County resisting suggested mask mandate, relying on testing


LEAWOOD, Kan. — As the metro area is seeing its largest increase in COVID-19 cases, hundreds of people are lining up Friday for coronavirus testing in Johnson County, Kansas.

Johnson County is resisting a push from Missouri metro area leaders to mandate masks in public. Like the rest of the nation, Johnson County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, but the positive test rate still is lower than in Jackson County, Mo., or Wyandotte County, Kan.

Testing has become a primary tool in Johnson County’s fight against the virus. Dr. Sanmi Areola, Johnson County’s director of health and environment, said identifying cases quickly and isolating individuals has been effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Although Johnson County wants 80 to 90 percent of its people to wear masks in public, Dr. Areola believes a mandate is not necessary.

Kansas City’s health director, Dr. Rex Archer has called Johnson County “unsafe”  because of that, and advised people to avoid going there.

“My counterpart, Rex, who some statements were attributed to, really has his hands full,” Dr. Aerola said. “He should focus on doing that. Johnson County residents, we trust you to listen to what we are telling you. Wear masks, it works. If enough of us wear masks, we will have good control of the spread of this virus.”

Dr. Aerola told FOX4 clusters of infection identified in Johnson County have been traced to people who work outside the county and then bring it in.

He said we are at a tipping point, where without distancing and masks, the situation could get out of control.

Johnson County also is seeing a shift in the average age of those testing positive. The infected are getting younger because those are the people more likely to be out and about.

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