Kansas county ponders new mask mandate; COVID claims officer

Mask Mandate
Posted at 10:20 AM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 11:20:44-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Health officials in one of Kansas' most populous counties are talking again about the possibility of imposing a local mask mandate over COVID-19 only days after one for children expired.

The interest in a new mask mandate in Douglas County, home to the main University of Kansas campus, comes as the state continues to see relatively high numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The delta variant has spread across the state, and 25 cases of the omicron variant have been reported in 10 of the state's 105 counties, including a case in Douglas County.

Meanwhile, a 46-year-old officer for the North Newton Police Department in south-central Kansas has died from complications after battling COVID-19. The state's total number of COVID-19 deaths is approaching 7,000, according to state Department of Health and Environment data.

In Douglas County, health department Director Dan Partridge told the Lawrence Journal-World that he, the county administrator and the CEO of the local health system plan to meet next week to hear from the county's public health officer and other health professionals. He said the question of imposing a new mask mandate is sure to come up.

The elected Douglas County Commission would decide whether to impose the mandate. Partridge said the earliest that health officials would present a recommendation would be Jan. 12.

The county kept a requirement that children ages 2 through 11 wear masks in public spaces in place until Dec. 22.

State health department data shows that Kansas has averaged 1,685 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, 43 new hospitalizations and 10 additional deaths a day this month, through Monday. The state reported 6,964 total deaths as of Monday.

A news release from the city of North Newton said police Officer Brian Rousseau died Tuesday. He had been a patrol officer since 2018 in the community of about 1,800 residents about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Wichita. He previously worked 18 years with the neighboring Newton Police Department.

North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan called Rousseau "a terrific officer and a terrific person." He is survived by his wife and two children.