Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issues statewide mask protocol with local autonomy

Laura Kelly
Posted at 4:11 PM, Nov 18, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday issued a statewide face covering mandate – but with the ability for local governments to determine specifics of such an ordinance.

"Each Kansas county is confronted with unique challenges when dealing with the virus … We listened when they told us they were concerned about a one-size-fits-all approach," Kelly said during a press briefing.

The executive order, which takes effect Nov. 25, is among the steps Kelly announced Wednesday as the state works to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Under the order, communities have one week to create their own local plan for mask requirements. If they do not, they are automatically enrolled in the state's protocol.

Counties still have the option to opt out of a mask mandate since a bill limiting Kelly's power to issue a statewide requirement remains in effect.

However, the governor said Wednesday she believes the counties that opted out of the original mandate will opt-in this time, partly because of the new order's flexibility.

Counties will be able to tailor their response to their community and residents' needs, Kelly said.

Counties and cities that already have face covering ordinances in effect are exempt from the latest executive order.

The order will be in place until it is rescinded or the state’s State of Disaster Emergency expires.

Other items in the order include a public health campaign and “community engagement conversations.”

The order calls for a face covering to be used in the following situations:

  • Inside, or in line to enter, any indoor public space;
  • Obtaining services from the health care sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank;
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or while in a taxi, private car service or ride-sharing vehicle;
  • While outdoors in public spaces and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals (not including individuals who reside together) with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.

The order also calls for all businesses or organizations in Kansas to require all employees, customers, visitors or members of the public to wear a face covering in the following situations:

  • Employees are working in any space visited by customers or members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
  • Employees are working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
  • Employees are working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators and parking facilities;
  • Customers, members, visitors or members of the public are in a facility managed by the business or organization; or
  • Employees are in any room or enclosed area where other people (except for individuals who reside together) are present and are unable to maintain a 6-foot distance except for infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.

Among those exempt from the mask requirement include people under the age of 5 and others in specific situations.

Kelly said the new executive order contains bipartisan ideas that will be implemented through public and private avenues.

"With your support, we can protect our businesses, continue educating our kids and avoid further preventable deaths and hospitalizations," Kelly said. "Remember that we are all in this together and together we'll get through it."

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday issued a statement in support of Kelly's new executive order, saying that data shows mask wearing helps small businesses.

"A reduced spread means businesses have a better chance of keeping their doors open," the chamber's statement said. "Frontline medical workers are dealing with a surge of new cases. Hospitals are running low on staff and ICU beds to treat those cases. We must all do our part to slow the spread and protect our community – especially our frontline medical workers.”