Kansas and Missouri Republican leaders say mask mandates could increase vaccine hesitancy

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missouri and Kansas Republican leaders say mask mandates will only thwart efforts to get people vaccinated and lead to more vaccine hesitancy.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson and U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) made the statements as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a new mask mandate will go into effect Monday. Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly announced beginning the same day all visitors and employees who can’t social distance will be required to wear masks in state buildings.

At recent vaccination events children have revealed a big motivation for getting their shot. In Lawrence when one girl, 10, was asked if she was hoping she wouldn’t have to wear a mask in school if she got the COVID-19 vaccine she responded, “yeah I don’t like masks.”

“We tell everyone to get a vaccine so you don’t have to wear a mask,” Lorene Martins said.

“Today’s inconsistent CDC guidance will only lead to more vaccine hesitancy. The science does not support a new mask mandate if you’ve been vaccinated or if you’ve had the virus,” Marshall said in a statement.

“It only serves to disrupt the increases we are seeing in vaccine uptake. This self-inflicted setback encourages skepticism and vaccine hesitancy at a time when the goal is to prevent serious illnesses and deaths from COVID-19 through vaccination,” Parson tweeted.

On Wednesday daily KU health call doctors acknowledged the latest guidance can be tough to digest.

“It really can confuse the general public because they say why do I have to wear a mask if I’m fully vaccinated,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson said.

“I’m as frustrated as any other vaccinated Kansan, I feel like I did my part and one of the rewards of that was not having to wear a mask, but that option has now been taken away because of the Delta variant,” Kelly said.

Kelly says the variant can have a viral load 1,000 times greater than original COVID-19 and KU doctors pointed to unpublished data from the CDC revealing vaccinated people can still replicate and shed the virus.

Leaders and health officials say mask mandates or guidelines aren’t sending a mixed message. Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System hope the rising cases and how seriously officials are taking COVID right now will be provide extra motivation not less for people without vaccines to get the shot.

Dr. Steven Stites said if 85% of people get vaccines and wear masks it won’t just bend the curve it will break it.

“What the CDC and what we continue to say is that we just need people to get vaccinated to prevent the onward march of this devastating variant that is increasing case rates,” Joan Duwve, Kansas Department of Health & Environment said.

“So we all go get it, but I’m still going to get COVID and I still have to wear a mask. So where’s the benefit, why are you putting me in a mask if you are still pushing the vaccine?” Martins countered.

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