KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas plans to call a meeting of the CORE4 to evaluate the possibility of a universal mask mandate.
The CORE4 includes Kansas City, Missouri; Jackson County; Johnson County, Kansas; and Wyandotte County. One purpose of the group is to provide a unified front on important regional issues.
Lucas shared his thoughts during an interview on the University of Kansas Health System’s COVID-19 call Wednesday. He said he plans to bring up the universal masking idea with the CORE4, but it remains unclear if there’s a political appetite for the move.
Lucas said the majority of COVID-19 rules have received “heckler’s vetoes,” meaning there are a lot of negative comments but not a lot in favor.
But he also said “our current moment demands action.”
“We’ve primarily prevailed upon parents to be reasonable and sensible and to not put your kids in just stupid political fights for no reason at all. And I think most schools have been able to handle that fairly well,” Lucas said, talking about the city’s current mask mandate affecting people at K-12 schools.
That measure will likely be extended another 30 days, according to Lucas, and at some point masking rules could also be expanded to more public spaces.
“We continue to evaluate that. We certainly are engaging with our lawyers regularly because we get more saber rattling from our state attorney general,” Lucas said.
While Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has threatened new lawsuits over mask mandates in any form, the saber-rattling goes both ways.
City council members are not currently discussing any new COVID mitigations strategies. The only item discussed in committee Wednesday reflected the continuing, possibly unexpected, impact of COVID on the city providing city employees up to 80 hours paid leave if they have a positive test.
“This ordinance is renewing the emergency paid sick leave related to COVID-19. The parameters for its usage would remain the same as the prior ordinance 210729, which expired Dec. 31, 2021,” Teri Casey, KCMO human resources director, said.
“It isn’t just actually in our schools,” Lucas said. “We had, I believe, roughly about a 100+ firefighters who were out recently dealing with COVID-19, and we actually don’t have that many firefighters. So when you’re looking at 15% of the workforce that challenging your ability to respond to 911 calls.”
Lucas said the same challenges are also happening in the police and sanitation departments.
As for reviving a mask mandate with the CORE4, Jackson County legislators on Tuesday had a masking ordinance withdrawn from the agenda. So that is at least is an indicator of what they are currently willing to do, or rather not do.