TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says state employees will soon be required to wear face masks at work if they cannot social distance. All visitors at state buildings will also be required to wear masks.
Kansas’ Democratic governor said the new mask rules will take effect Monday. Both rules apply regardless of vaccination status. Watch her full announcement from Wednesday in the video player above.
Kelly did not impose a statewide mask mandate again, but strongly encouraged Kansas residents to get vaccinated and wear a mask.
Kelly’s announcement Wednesday comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask recommendations that affect even those who are fully vaccinated.
The agency said Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans who live in areas with “substantial and high” transmission should wear masks in indoor public spaces in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. The CDC has always maintained that unvaccinated people should continue to wear a face mask and social distance.
The CDC’s website has a map that shows counties with substantial and high transmission. That includes a combined 63.11% of counties in the U.S. Every county in the immediate Kansas City metro has a high transmission rate, according to the CDC.
Less than 24 hours after the CDC’s new guidance Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Kansas City would reinstate a new indoor mask mandate that takes effect in August.
The CDC also recommended that all people in schools should also wear masks, regardless of vaccination.
Kelly said the state will release updated school year guidance next week for local school districts to use when assessing protocols.
Several Kansas school districts, including some here in the Kansas City area, have already decided that masks will be required for some or all students this fall.
Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools voted earlier this month to require all students and staff in the school district to wear a mask. This week, the Shawnee Mission School District decided that all elementary students will be required to wear masks. They will be encouraged but optional for older students.
In central Kansas, the Salina school district also opted to require masks. It appears to be the first Kansas school district outside the Kansas City area to do so.
Additionally, Shawnee and Douglas counties in northeast Kansas have implemented mask requirements after a surge in new COVID-19 cases tied to the faster-spreading delta variant.
But here in the KC area, Wyandotte County told FOX4 it’s meeting with the health department Thursday to get the latest info on COVID-19 in the county. From that information, the commission will weigh in on its next steps to combat the virus.
But in Johnson County, a mask mandate isn’t on the county’s agenda for its next meeting Thursday. Some commissioners told FOX4 they don’t think a mandate is needed.
Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended Kansas’ pandemic state of emergency in mid-June, citing a decline in new cases. Kelly had wanted to keep the state of emergency in place at least through August, and new cases began rising again only days after the GOP leaders’ action.
GOP legislators over time limited Kelly’s power and local officials’ authority to impose pandemic, but a Johnson County judge earlier this month struck down many of those limits.
The court ruling appeared to leave Kelly with the power to impose a new state of emergency, but only for up to 45 days. Also, counties could opt out of any restrictions she imposed for public health reasons.