KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Jackson County Legislature voted Monday to extend a mask mandate in the county.
County Executive Frank White Jr. announced in early August that he would reinstate a mask mandate amid low vaccination rates in the county and rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant.
With the legislature’s vote, the county mask mandate, which was set to expire Sept. 7, has been extended to Oct. 7.
The resolutions passed 6-3 with Ronald Finley and Charlie Franklin joining the resolution’s sponsors — Jalen Anderson, Crystal Williams, Tony Miller and Scott Burnett — in voting yes.
“As elected officials, it is our job to make tough decisions regardless of how unpopular they are,” White said in a statement. “Today, the Legislature faced that challenge and ultimately, based on the science and data presented to them, acted in the best interest of public safety, not politics. We will continue relying on our public health and medical professionals to guide us through this deadly pandemic since it began nearly 18 months ago. Wearing a mask indoors along with getting more people vaccinated will offer more protection to all of our residents, including children under 12 who are not able to get vaccinated. I commend my colleagues today for standing up for what’s right.”
Dan Tarwater III, Jeanie Lauer and Theresa Cass Galvin voted against the ordinance.
The Renewed Public Health Order encourages vaccination among anyone who is eligible, which currently includes people ages 12 and older, and requires masks in indoor settings for people over age 5.
The extension applies to businesses, schools and churches among other locations where the public gathers indoors in eastern Jackson County.
Resolution No. 20749 cites low vaccination rates as well as high transmission and hospitalization rates among other factors in extending the mask mandate, which the Jackson County Health Department supported.
The health department submitted an updated report Aug. 26 to the legislature “outlining the need for and recommending an extension of the mask mandate.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dashboard showed Monday that 52% of the county is vaccinated and transmission rates remain high across the Midwest.
Public health orders are limited to 30 days in any 180-day period and require a majority vote of a local political entity — for instance, a city council, county commission/legislature — to be extended when there is a state of emergency in place under a new Missouri law Gov. Mike Parson signed June 15.
Parson announced last week that he is ending the statewide state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective Tuesday.
Moving forward, public mandates are limited to 21 days in any 180-day timeframe and require a two-thirds majority to be extended if no state of emergency is in place.
White’s decision to reinstate the mask mandate, which took effect Aug. 9 and applies to all of Jackson County outside KCMO and Independence city limits, came days after Kansas City, Missouri, announced a similar mandate.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the city and county over its mask mandate, but there has been no ruling in the case.