‘Such a simple thing’: Metro woman battling cancer urges everyone to wear a mask

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — As the metro sees a rapid uptick in COVID-19 cases, Kansas City has announced face masks will be mandatory in public places starting Monday. 

Wyandotte County officials are expected to announce a similar mandate soon.

But Johnson County is one of the five metro jurisdictions that has openly said it won’t be doing so at this point.

That’s concerning to people at high risk.

Susie Hediger said it’s a kind gesture when people wear a face mask, even if they don’t want to. 

“This extra layer of protection, it it just seems like such a simple thing to me,” she said.

It’s also a lifesaving gesture for Hediger who has been battling cancer for 11 months.

“I have had radiation and chemo on my lungs, so my lungs cannot battle this,” she said. 

Hediger is an essential worker and had to leave her job at a home improvement store in Johnson County when the COVID-19 crisis began.

With a condition that she could stay safe, Hediger’s doctor gave her the OK to go back to work Monday — but that didn’t last long.

“I was so excited, and I was only able to do it for about 4 and a half hours, and then at lunchtime I told my boss I just can’t do it. I have to go home,” Hediger said.

“Two hundred to 300 people came to my register or my line or my vicinity. Easily, maybe 20 had a mask on, maybe 20.”

She said it’s alarming that Johnson County isn’t making masks a requirement. 

According to the Kansas City Health Department, states that mandate mask use everywhere in public have seen a 25% decrease in cases.

Those requiring employees and patrons of businesses to wear them have seen a 12% decrease in COVID-19 cases.

Areas where just employees are required to wear masks have seen a 70% increase in cases, and those just recommending mask wearing have yielded an 84% increase in cases.

Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert acknowledges cases are up, especially in the 20- to 40-year-old age range, but he said hospitalizations are steady.

He also said a mandate would be difficult to enforce in a county with so many individual jurisdictions.

“Nobody wants to go back to having to shut down or stay-at-home orders, and with the cooperation of the public in this effort, that help mitigates that possibility,” he said. 

Kansas City’s mask order starts June 29 and, for now, runs through July 12. It could be extended depending upon COVID-19 infection numbers.

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