KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday she plans to require state employees and visitors to state buildings to wear a face mask.
The announcement comes as many counties in Kansas face an increase in COVID-19 case due to the faster-spreading delta variant, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues new guidance that anyone older than 2 needs to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Kelly urged those who are unvaccinated to get the shot and thanked those who have already done so.
“I want those Kansans who wore masks and got their vaccine to know that I share your frustration. No one likes wearing a mask, myself included," Kelly said. "I’m deeply appreciative of your willingness to protect your friends and neighbors through this pandemic, and i take no pleasure in asking you to put a mask on again."
Close to half the state's population "has refused" to get a vaccine that is safe, effective and free, Kelly said, and their decision has a national and statewide effect.
“Those low vaccination rates have allowed the twice-as-contagious delta variant of COVID-19 to spread like wildfire across the country and now our state,” Kelly said.
The governor also urged Kansans in counties with high community spread to mask up regardless of vaccination status per CDC guidance.
“If your county falls into the red zone… you should wear a mask,” she said.
Kelly called the reinstated mask guidance a "self-inflicted problem" that she takes no enjoyment in implementing.
“I’m as frustrated as any other vaccinated Kansan. I feel like I did my part and one of the rewards of that was not having to wear a mask," Kelly said.
She also took aim at politicians who have put road blocks in the path of effective COVID-19 safety measures.
Kelly said while the sentiment that the unvaccinated are moving everyone backward is a strong one, it applies to elected officials, too.
"[Blame] extends to any elected official that has put politics over public health over the last year, or stayed silent and allowed falsehoods and conspiracy theories to replace science and medicine,” Kelly said.
The governor said her administration will announce guidance for schools later this week.
Another announcement soon forthcoming is that of a vaccine incentive, Kelly said.
The governor said her administration has been monitoring how effective the process is in other states and knows incentives are a tool, but not the tool to get people vaccinated.
Kelly's mandate goes into effect Monday, Aug. 2.