Platte County Health Department Board of Trustees votes to leave masks optional

Platte County mask meeting
Posted at 8:20 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 00:30:15-04

PLATTE CITY, Mo. — With most residents loudly in favor of keeping masking optional, the Platte County Health Department Board of Trustees unanimously agreed, and mask wearing will remain optional.

Most of the 13 members of the public who gave input during Thursday night's meeting were strongly opposed to a mandate.

"But as long as we're requiring masks until COVID is not a part of our community anymore, our kids will be wearing masks for years," Jessica Schwent, a parent, said. "We can't expect schools to be free of risk."

Michael Claxton, a Platte City resident, said a new mandate "would only further erode the trust and be counterproductive in increasing vaccination rates."

Jon Bushman, who lives at Weatherby Lake, asked the board for a choice.

"Let us choose to wear a mask if we think we need to, not because you said so," Bushman said. "Let us learn to live with COVID."

Of those who addressed the board, nine were against a mask mandate, three supported a mandate and one person said they'd support any decision the board made.

Those who opposed the mandate received boisterous applause after giving their comments.

"If you want your children to wear a mask and they want to wear a mask, I respect that," Kathy Place, a Kansas City, Missouri, resident, said. "I am responsible for my own health."

It's that power of choice that was the popular sentiment in the middle school cafeteria where the meeting was held.

One man who supported a mask mandate was interrupted and shouted at by detractors while speaking to the board.

Following the public comment, Mary Jo Vernon, director of the Platte County Health Department, presented data surrounding COVID-19 numbers and cases in Platte County.

"At 100 cases per 100,000 for the last seven days, that moves you into high transmission," she said. "The red zone, we are almost at 300 cases right now."

Members of the crowd shouted at her, even going as far as to say she was lying.

The board chose to let school districts make their own decisions regarding masks and kept masks in areas outside of Kansas City, Missouri, limits optional.

"We're not here to tell the school board what to do," Dr. R. Kent Jackson, Platte County Health Board chair, said. "That's their job anyway."

Dr. Jeffrey Kingsley, Platte County Health board member, questioned what the health department's policies should be going forward.

"I said we shouldn't punish the fully vaccinated by forcing them to wear masks," King said. "They did everything they were supposed to do and now they're being punished for doing it. I think that's ridiculous."

Elisa Neilson, a contract tracer for Platte County, said the most important thing is to keep children in school.

"Then having masks in school for everyone is the only way we're going to be able to do that," Neilson said.

So far, the Park Hill School District is the only one in Platte County that's decided on masks, requiring them at the start of the academic year.

The county had lifted its mask mandates in May, along with other Kansas City metro municipalities, to align with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance at the time that vaccinated people did not need to wear face coverings.