Prairie Village City Council debates issuing a citywide mask mandate

Tracking Coronavirus

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Prairie Village could soon issue a city-wide mask mandate.

On Monday, Prairie Village City Councilmember Jori Nelson proposed the city create a new mask policy to combat the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“We simply can’t wait for the county, other municipalities or the state legislature to do the right thing. It is our responsibility to keep our residents and our workforce safe,” Nelson said. 

The council voted 8-2 in favor of having city staff draft an ordinance for a possible mask mandate. Councilmembers Courtney McFadden and Sheila Myers voted against the proposal. 

“The cases have gone up, but the hospitalizations look like we are at about where we were in May after the mask mandate was lifted. Deaths are very, very, very, very low, so I would like to wait and maybe revisit this in the future,” Myers said. 

City Attorney David Waters said the city likely has home rule authority, giving the council the power to establish a mask mandate ordinance for city residents, but it would require a formal ordinance and vote by the council. Previously the city has adopted health guidelines passed down from the governor and county commissioners.

If approved, this will be the first time the city of Prairie Village has established a mandate of its own.

On July 29, the city of Prairie Village reinstated masking protocols for city staff.

Without a county of state mask mandate in place, Councilmember Ian Graves and Prairie Village Police Chief Byron Roberson both expressed concerns about how the proposed mandate would be enforced.

“It would be, I think, somewhat problematic to try to do it just in our city as far as enforcement wise, without having a county mandate or a state mandate in place. We will work through anything we can with the council with whatever they decide to do,” Roberson said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Johnson County to be at high risk for COVID transmission. The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) reported 1,874 new cases of COVID in the county in the last two weeks.

Nelson said she would like to see a city ordinance modeled after the previous statewide mandate that would require everyone older than 5 to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. 

“Where we are today is different than where we were a year ago. We have learned a great deal about the effectiveness of masking. The Delta variant is more infectious, has a shorter incubation period from six to four days and has a viral load 1,000 times higher than the original strain,” Nelson said. 

While city staff work to draft a proposed ordinance, the council has agreed to issue a statement encouraging residents and business owners to follow the latest CDC guidelines about masking indoors. That statement reads:

“Prairie Village is currently in an area of high transmission and therefore urges that individuals and businesses follow recent CDC guidance as of July 27, 2021, regarding masking indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”

Councilmember Chad Herring said he hopes the Johnson County Board of Commissioners will approve new mask guidelines because he feels Prairie Village would be limited if the city is the only entity to take additional COVID precautions. 

“I think that it is a very serious and worthwhile tool for us to help keep this under control, but a piecemeal approach is really problematic so I hope the county will pay attention to this,” Herring said. 

The city council will vote on a potential mask mandate ordinance at the next regular council meeting on August 16 at 6 p.m. 

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