Johnson County commissioners vote to observe mandatory mask mandate

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OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County Board of Commissioners voted to fall in line with Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s statewide mask mandate on Thursday.

The commissioners voted 4-2 in favor of observing the mask mandate, with one abstaining.

Hundreds of people watched or attended the special meeting this morning, many giving public comment, with those in attendance split on the issue.

Gov. Kelly issued an order Thursday directing Kansas residents to wear masks in public places and their workplaces, likely provoking a backlash from the Republican-controlled Legislature even though enforcement is expected to be lax.

Kelly issued the order after the state saw a surge in reported coronavirus cases following her decision to lift statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings May 26. She left the rules to the state’s 105 counties after weeks of complaints from Republican lawmakers that she was moving too slowly to reopen the economy. The new mask requirement will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The governor’s order says Kansas residents must wear masks in indoor public spaces, while seeking health care or using public transportation. It also says people must wear them outdoors in public when they can’t remain at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others. Businesses must require their employees to wear masks in places frequented by the public, even if members of the public are not present, or if they prepare food.

The requirement would not apply to children under 6, the deaf, or people with medical conditions that make breathing through a mask difficult or that would prevent them from removing a mask without assistance. The rule also doesn’t apply to the Legislature’s meetings or to court proceedings.

“All of us want to return to our normal lives and routines,” Kelly said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across our state and our country. We must act.”

Mask orders are now in effect in the following metro locations: North Kansas City, Jackson County, Douglas County, Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Missouri.

Mask orders for Clay County and Johnson County, Missouri begin on Monday.

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