Kansas City will once again be under a mask mandate.
The mandate will require masks in public indoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Wednesday.
It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2 and lasts until at least 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28. Kansas City lifted its previous mask mandate in May.
The order applies to those over the age of 5, regardless of vaccination status, with a few exemptions.
“It is a setback, and it’s one that we’re going to try to make sure we fix,” Lucas said during a virtual press conference Wednesday.
Lucas announced late Tuesday night that the city would return to masking up, making it the second Missouri metro to return to masks after St. Louis’ mandate went into effect Monday.
There are some exemptions to the mandate. Those include children under age 5, people with disabilities where masks are a “substantial impairment to their health,” people actively eating or drinking in a restaurant, or people who are getting a service that involves the face and requires removal of the mask.
One other exemption: If you can verify that everyone in a room has been fully vaccinated, masks are not required.
The CDC says about 49% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and about 57% has received at least one dose of a vaccine.
In Missouri, roughly 41% of the population has been fully vaccinated and 47% has initiated vaccination.
Lucas said in a statement that “Kansas Citians will need to begin masking in all indoor public places on Monday to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and throughout Missouri.”
Included in those indoor places are grocery and retail stores, special events, public transit and schools.
He continued to encourage Kansas Citians to get vaccinated.
“I thank all Kansas Citians, our businesses, and our schools for understanding the reinstatement of the mask requirement is a necessary and immediate step we must take to protect our community,” Lucas said.
Almost two weeks ago, 10 Kansas City health agencies — prompted by rising COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and low vaccination rates — issued a joint public health advisory recommending unvaccinated people wear masks.
Lucas said the state’s COVID-19 outbreak is “a sign of great embarrassment” for Missourians.
After St. Louis issued its mandate, city leaders were met with a lawsuit from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt challenging the decision to issue those restrictions. Schmitt said Wednesday morning he will sue to overturn Kansas City’s mandate as well.
Lucas said he will introduce a resolution in the coming weeks for City Council support of emergency actions.
Kansas City Health Department Deputy Director Health Frank Thompson also encouraged vaccination and called on Kansas Citians to mask up.
“The Kansas City metro area has so many jurisdictions, and few people stay in just one to live, work, and play,” Thompson said. “No matter where you travel to in the metro, please continue to mask up. This is one important way we can all protect each other.”
The Health Department offers vaccine clinics at 2400 Troost Avenue. Kansas Citians can also call 311 or visit www.kcmo.gov/coronavirus.
As of Wednesday, the seven-day rolling average for new cases in the Kansas City metro was 470.
Who enforces the mask mandate?
The Health Department will primarily be responsible for enforcing the order. Other agencies including the Kansas City Fire Department and the city’s Regulated Industries Division will provide support.
Lucas said the enforcement will be the same as it was with the first order, which ended in May.
“This should be dejá vu for some people,” he said. “We went through these steps before.”
Kansas Citians can report sick individuals at a workplace or elsewhere and those not complying with the mandate by emailing the Health Department at COVIDviolations@kcmo.org or by calling 311. Violating the order would be considered a violation of the city’s Code of Ordinances.
Customers who refuse to mask up can be denied service.
Businesses do need to provide reasonable accommodations that can include the following:
“Allow a person to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or full-face shield instead of a face mask;
“Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
“Allow customers to order by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
“Allow a person to wait in a car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted; or
“Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.”
How will the city reconsider the order?
According to the city’s frequently asked questions about the mandate, there are five indicators the city will use to determine modifying restrictions:
“Sustained declines in the average number of new daily reported cases, both in Kansas City and across the broader metropolitan region;
“Hospital utilization and ICU availability;
“Percentage of the population that has been vaccinated;
“The ability to trace, test, and isolate individuals who are potentially exposed to the virus, also known as contact tracing.
“The emergence of new variants and new data on transmission and risks to vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.”
“I don’t relish a mask mandate,” Lucas said. “But I think this is what we need to do to keep our community safe, to keep our school kids safe and to make sure broadly that we reverse the the terrible trends that we’ve seen in Missouri, and unfortunately now in eastern Kansas.”
What about other jurisdictions?
The Kansas City mandate applies to all of the city, including parts of the city in other counties. Lucas has been in touch with other jurisdictions, including Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Jackson County in Missouri — together, they make up the CORE4.
Wyandotte County leaders will meet Thursday evening to discuss COVID-19 and any other health order recommendations. Unified Government mayor and CEO David Alvey called the special session to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Fifth Floor conference room at City Hall, 701 N. 7th Street in Kansas City, Kansas. At the meeting, the UG’s health department will present COVID-19 data and any recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.
Johnson County health officials said they are reviewing the updated CDC guidance and are concerned about the spread of COVID-19. The Johnson County board of commissioners meet on Thursday. On the agenda is an update on COVID-19 and vaccination in the county.
Jackson County did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The CDC on Tuesday backpedaled on its masking guidelines and recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, including in Missouri and Kansas.
For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.
Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a news briefing that the agency now recommends that, in areas with “substantial and high transmission” of the virus, fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings, including schools, to help prevent the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.
She said the new data shows that the delta variant behaves differently than other strains of the virus and that in “rare occasions” some vaccinated people infected with it may be able to spread the virus to others.
The CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people may choose to wear a mask regardless of their area’s transmission level, especially if they’re immunocompromised or at “increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19” or if they live with someone who is immunocompromised, at an increased risk or not fully vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated people who know they were exposed to someone with “suspected or confirmed COVID-19” should be tested for the virus three to five days after they were exposed and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they get a negative test result.
“Vaccinations are the best of all prevention measures,” Thompson said. “As long as transmission continues, variants will continue to develop. We don’t know what the next variant will look like, how virulent it will be, and that should concern everyone.”
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 email@example.com with the subject line “covid question.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Update: The special session for the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday. This story has been updated to reflect the change.
Listen to our daily briefing: