KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Johnson County officials voted Thursday to extend public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of April.
The vote passed 5-2 at the county commissioner's meeting.
Commissioners Charlotte O'Hara and Michael Ashcraft voted no, while Commissioners Ed Eilert, Becky Fast, Jeff Meyers, Janeé Hanzlick, and Shirley Allenbrand voted yes.
Residents will have to continue wearing a face mask in public and social distancing will continue to be observed in public spaces, including restaurants and stores.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment requested that the order be extended. Officials said extending the order will allow them to vaccinate everyone who is eligible by the end of April.
"For those who are yet unvaccinated, extending the restrictions by an additional month will buy them time to get the vaccine," Dr. Joseph LeMaster, Johnson County Health Officer, said. "It will also provide time for the Johnson County health department to implement strategies to reach those who are vulnerable and at risk to improve equity of vaccinations."
The county's health department said they are happy to see cases decrease but their primary goal is to get 50% of the county's population vaccinated. Right now that number sits at 31%.
"The physical distancing is important, the vaccination is important, mask wearing is important. It's a combination of those that we believe will take us to where we need to be," Dr. Sanmi Areola, Director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, said.
Commissioners said they could end or adjust the health order should the county meet its vaccination goals sooner.
11 people spoke at the public comment portion. All but two wanted the board to get rid of all mandates and restrictions.
"We know the risks and we are able and should be able to make our own decision on wearing a mask. My health is not your responsibility just as your health is not my responsibility" Lenexa resident Emily Carpenter said.
"Masks work," Becca Peck, Overland Park resident, said. "It's still raining. Please, please, please do not take down the umbrella."
Officials had previously voted in January to extend the order through March 31 by the same 5-2 margin.
Back in February, the county did loosen some restrictions on gatherings and restaurant operating hours.