Cases up. Masks mandated. Here’s what you should know today about COVID in Kansas City

·7 min read

Here’s what we know about COVID-19 in the Kansas City region on July 29:

COVID-19 cases on the rise

On Thursday, the Kansas City metro added 566 new cases. The seven-day rolling average rose from 483 to 488, according to data tracked by The Star.

One death was added, raising the metro’s total to 2,330 since the pandemic began.

Kansas City responds with mask mandate

The mask mandate will go into effect on Aug. 2 at 12:01 a.m. It will be in place until at least Aug. 28.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said the state’s COVID-19 outbreak, and subsequent need for the mandate, is “a sign of great embarrassment” for Missourians.

Anyone ages 5 and older will need to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, regardless of if they’ve been vaccinated or not.

People who don’t need to follow the mandate include:

  • Kids younger than 5

  • People with disabilities for whom wearing a mask would be a substantial impairment

  • People eating or drinking at a restaurant or bar while adequately distanced from other people

  • People getting a service involving the mouth or face that requires a mask to be removed

  • If you can verify that everyone in a room has been fully vaccinated, masks are not required.

Masks will be required in any space of public accommodation, such as service establishments, grocery and retail stores, special events, public transit and schools.

Violations can be punished by a fine of not less than $25.00 and not more than $500.00, or by imprisonment in the municipal penal correctional institution for a period of time not less than one day and not more than six months.

Is the mandate the right move? Doctors respond

Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System said they were in “total agreement” with Kansas City’s decision to reinstate a mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge across the metro.

“I think we have to support it at this point in time, medically,” said Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the health system.

Physicians stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing.

“Vaccine continues to look like it protects from severe illness and death,” said chief medical officer Steve Stites.

KC vaccination rates

As of Wednesday afternoon, Johnson County continues to lead in the metro with 58% of its residents fully vaccinated. That’s followed by Platte County at 41.5%, Jackson County at 40.1%, Clay County at 39.2% and Wyandotte County at 38%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine information can be found at vaccines.gov or on the Kansas City Health Department’s website.

COVID-19 in Springfield, Missouri

A Springfield hospital announced Tuesday that it expanded its morgue capacity amid an increase in COVID-19 deaths, while the Kansas City mayor announced he would reinstate a mask mandate for indoor spaces.

Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19. Its seven-day rolling average of daily deaths has nearly doubled over the past two weeks, according to data from John Hopkins.

CDC guidance

Fully vaccinated people who are in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission levels should wear masks in indoor public settings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The recommendation was included in the CDC’s updated guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency also recommended universal masking at schools, and that fully vaccinated people take additional precautions and be tested after three to five days following known exposure to the coronavirus.

What are other jurisdictions doing about masks?

North Kansas City: North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that he intends to issue a new mask order for North Kansas City.

In his statement, DeLong said there is “no doubt that COVID-19 is yet again posing a significant health risk to our region and community.” He added that the consideration of new rules is based on the CDC’s new guidance.

Jackson County: Jackson County Executive Frank White said Wednesday that he and the health department are asking that everyone follow the CDC’s latest recommendation. He also said a new Missouri law limiting the authority of local governments to impose mask mandates must be taken into account.

“I will work with my colleagues on the Jackson County Legislature to determine the best path forward for Jackson County and will continue to work with our regional partners in hopes of aligning our orders to reduce confusion and increase the impact of our actions,” White said in a statement.

Johnson County: The Johnson County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote next week on whether to issue a new countywide mask mandate, although Chairman Ed Eilert made clear Thursday he is reluctant to do so.

Independence: Independence will require masks to be worn in all city facilities including City Hall, Police Headquarters, Independence Utility Center, Sermon Center, Truman Memorial Building, Palmer Center, Independence Uptown Market, and the Cable Dahmer Arena, starting on July 29.

Additionally, there will be expanded access to Independence Health Department vaccine clinics across the City with options five days a week, beginning on Aug. 2.

Independence has its own health department that operates outside of the purview of Jackson County.

Wyandotte County: A spokeswoman for the Unified Government said Wednesday that health officials will meet with Wyandotte County leaders in a special session Thursday evening to discuss COVID-19 and any health order recommendations.

Kansas governor requires masks for state employees

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and local government leaders recommended mask usage Wednesday following revised CDC guidelines but did not take the sweeping enforceable action announced earlier in the day by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who issued a new mask mandate for the city.

Kelly opted only to require masks for state employees and visitors to state buildings in counties with high and substantial transmission of COVID-19, even though a recent court order granted her the power to issue a new 15-day state of emergency and gave local health officers the authority to issue unilateral orders.

The mask requirement won’t involve a new state of emergency. Kelly will instead rely on her pre-existing authority to manage executive branch agencies.

University of Kansas recommends you mask up

The University of Kansas is asking all students and staff to wear masks indoors following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments.

In an email to staff and students Wednesday, KU referred to those advisories and was careful to note that students would not be required to mask up.

“It is not a mandate, and individuals who choose not to follow this recommendation will not be in violation of any university policy at this time. Still, we strongly urge and hope that individuals will care for their own health and contribute to the health of others by adhering to this guidance,” the email said.

Mizzou to require masks in class

The University of Missouri will require masks this fall in many settings on campus, regardless of vaccination status, and will incentivize students, faculty and staff with prizes such as tuition discounts to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement came Thursday, as Missouri struggles with the surge of COVID cases driven by the aggressive delta variant. Fall classes begin in about a month for about 30,000 students at the university’s Columbia campus.

The school will require all students and faculty to wear masks in classrooms, which will be at full capacity, and in “meeting spaces” where social distancing is not possible. The policy begins Monday and will be reviewed on Sept. 15, according to an email the university sent to students and staff.

What questions do you have?

KC Star journalists will work to answer any questions you have on masks and COVID-19 as the delta variant spreads and restrictions are put back. Email ehine@kcstar.com with the subject line “covid question.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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