Governor orders masks in public, approval and enforcement would fall on county

By Adam Strunk 

Gov. Laura Kelly has required masks be worn in public places. But whether or not such an order gets enforced depends on other state and local elected officials.
Kelly announced the mask order on Monday, as the state reported on its website that there have been 729 new cases since Friday and a total of 14,443 cases and 270 deaths. The nationwide cases have again surged, with the number of new cases per day passing the 40,000 mark. The previous high mark was set in April at 35,900. More than 125,000 have died from the virus.

“Every Kansan in a public space must wear a mask,” Kelly stated. “It doesn’t change where you can go or what you can do; you must wear a mask. If you’re outside but in a place where you can’t maintain six feet distance, you must make a mask.”

She said full text with comprehensive explanations and rules would be released Thursday. The order would go into effect July 3.

Kelly said that the order would have to be accepted by the state financial council, which is made up of Senate and House leadership.

“This is in the best interest of Kansans and their constituents,” she said. “If they care about their safety and wellbeing and the businesses in the district, they won’t fight this one.”

Counties would also then have the say of if they implemented the order or not and be responsible for enforcing the order. Kelly said that she hoped local elected officials and health officials would support and implement the order, as it was the best way to keep residents safe and keep the economy functioning and local businesses operating. She said she worked closely with the state attorney general’s office to craft the order.

She did acknowledge the order would upset some Kansas residents.

“I expect there will be some outraged by this order, but I also have been following what’s going on across the country. More and more you are seeing even Republican leaders stepping up and mandating masks,” she said.

Eighteen states now require masks to be worn in pubic, such as Arizona and North Carolina. Twenty-seven others have jurisdictions requiring masks. The Centers for Disease Control recommends mask use to prevent the disease. A study recently published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Lance combed through 172 other studies about mask usage and found that wearing cloth masks significantly reduces the spread of COVID-19. The study concluded that widespread mask usage prevents the spread of COVID-19.

While a mask doesn’t prevent a person from contracting the virus, they are shown to prevent a person with the virus from expelling water droplets during talking and coughing. Those droplets are now believed to be the main way the virus spreads from person to person.

Kelly said on the state level the state was seeing clusters of cases where people were not wearing masks. However in dental offices, as well as salons and barbershops, where masks are required, the state had yet to see a cluster outbreak.

“We know from the numbers we have enough data to prove that masks work and no masks doesn’t work,” she said.

She said that the virus will continue to be with local communities until a vaccine and that masks are one of the best ways available to deal with the virus.

“I don’t like them, either, but it’s too bad,” she said. “The virus is the one that controls this, not us. The mask is a really good protection against the virus, and it’s really important to wear the mask.”

On Monday, Harvey County reported eight new COVID-19 cases, making 23 active cases in the county. Nearly all of those cases have occurred in the last 10 days. There have been a total of 40 cases in Harvey County. Neighboring McPherson and Sedgwick Counties are seeing spikes in cases as well.