Wyandotte County Health Department recommends 6-week mask mandate in public spaces

Exterior of Wyandotte County Public Health Department
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 00:21:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Wyandotte County Health Department on Thursday night recommended a six-week indoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

But a decision on the mandate is up to the Unified Government's Board of Commissioners.

Juliann Van Liew, UG Health Department director, said a major reason for the urgency of a mask mandate is that they add an extra layer of protection and can drive down the number of new COVID-19 cases.

Virus cases in Wyandotte County are rising to levels last seen in January.

"Unfortunately, regarding the number of cases were seeing on a day-to-day basis, we’ve popped back up again," said Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer for Wyandotte County.

The health department said 50 to 60 new COVID-19 cases are being reported daily, while the county's fully vaccinated rate sits at 35%. The positivity rate in the county is 30%, meaning three of 10 people are testing positive for the virus.

The more-infectious delta variant has achieved significant spread because of the low vaccination rate. And a department official told commissioners that hospitals are becoming strained with the vast majority of COVID-19 patients not being vaccinated when arriving at hospitals.

Health department officials also are worried about students returning to school in just a few weeks.

"If we don’t do something before school start and you look at how delta has affected other countries, we are going to have the same problem we had last winter," said Dr. Allen Greiner, Wyandotte County medical officer.

They recommended universal masking for students, teachers and staff at all schools.

Other recommendations include three feet of social distancing, diagnostic and screening tests and vaccinations, when applicable.

In addition, contact tracing with isolation and quarantine also should be part of the plans for schools.

Commissioners had not voted by 6:45 p.m. Thursday on the health department's recommendations, but had a conversation about whether a mask mandate should be in place.

"Do what’s right, and let’s reinstate the mandate for six weeks," Commissioner Christian Ramirez said.

However, Commissioner Mike Kane said it would be better to phrase as "highly recommended instead of saying that it's being forced."

The issue will be up for a vote at a later date.

Meanwhile, outside the meeting room, those who live in Wyandotte County also are split on whether there should be an indoor mask mandate.

"I think freedom of choice is a beautiful thing," KCK resident Lisa Walker-Yeager said. "I think if you want to wear your mask you should wear your mask."

Others feel it should be mandated.

"I feel like more people should wear masks until they get it [COVID-19] under control or get rid of it," KCK resident Charla Hardin said, as she knows what it's like to lose a loved one to COVID. "A lot of people are dying and stuff from it, you know I had a sister pass away from COVID."