With local mask mandates gone, many cautiously optimistic about slow return to normal

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Signs of pandemic normalcy are beginning to peek through more than a year’s worth of clouds.

For many, there’s cause for cautious optimism in Wyandotte County. The Unified Government’s mandatory mask regulation expires at midnight Friday, ending roughly 15 months of face covering requirements. 

At one point, Wyandotte County led the state of Kansas in positive COVID-19 testing rates. More than a year after the mask mandate went into effect, it’s being lifted, meaning masks aren’t required in public spaces anymore. That includes indoors — except for businesses that may have their own policies requiring masks.

The county is proceeding with caution, according to Janell Friesen, a spokesperson for the Wyandotte County Health Department. Friesen said infection rates are down, and vaccination rates are up.

A county that was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic is finally showing the progress enjoyed by neighboring counties.

“We’re not quite at what a lot of people call normal,” Friesen said Friday. “We’re in a much better place than we were, say, a year ago. But we’re not out of the woods yet. That’s why it’s important to get those vaccine numbers up in Wyandotte County since we don’t want to see those numbers go back up.”

Cause for excitement can also be found in Jackson County, Missouri.

That county’s health administrators have closed the mass vaccination clinic at John Knox Village, a large senior living community, where more than 56,000 doses of vaccine had been administered. At the pandemic’s onset, care for seniors was a focal point, as skilled nursing centers were ripe breeding grounds for the virus to spread.

“It’s a very good sign that we’ve moved past the mass vaccination state of this pandemic,” said Ray Dlugolecki, Jackson County’s assistant health director. “It means we’re moving to another phase of vaccine distribution, which is predicated on access and convenience. Getting out into the community as many places as we can and providing those really convenient access points to people.”

Vaccination rates are encouraging in both counties. So far, 27% of people in Wyandotte County have been fully vaccinated, and 31% of Jackson County residents have gotten at least one dose.

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