KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners voted 5-2 Thursday to maintain the county’s health order recommending masks for K-6 students, and will revisit the health order in six weeks.
The health order continues the recommendation the six school districts in the county have K-6 students wear masks.
“The number of infections and the positivity rate is at levels we have not seen during the pandemic," Ed Eilert, Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert said. "I don’t discount the information we get from our area medical professionals. Almost 200 doctors signed the letter encouraging that mitigation efforts continue."
Eilert was joined by fellow commissioners Becky Fast, Jeff Meyers, Janeè Hanzlick and Shirley Allenbrand in voting for the measure.
Commissioners Charlotte O’Hara and Michael Ashcraft opposed.
Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola presented commissioners with the county's latest COVID-19 case data prior to the vote.
Specifically as it related to masks in school, Areola's remarks were stark.
“It’s tough to imagine keeping our schools open without masks,” Areola said.
In the lead up to the vote, commissioners took public comment from more than three dozen people representing various viewpoints.
“When it comes to school safety and COVID, the evidence is clear, masks work," resident Anne Kohlstaat said.
"I’m over all of the overreach of the government," resident Breanna Leahy said. "We don’t co-parent with the government. That’s not what we’re here for. We need to get back to having the kids parented by their parents."
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the board received a letter from mayors representing nine cities in Johnson County - including the largest city in the county, Overland Park - calling for enhanced mitigation measures against omicron.
On Wednesday, several schools in the Shawnee Mission School District exceeded a threshold that prompted them to require masks to be worn for at least the next 14 days. The announcement came less than two days after the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education punted on more comprehensive protocols.