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Kansas City And Jackson County Both Lift Mask Mandates

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas at a news conference last month announcing the latest iteration of the city's mask order.
Carlos Moreno
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas last month announcing the latest iteration of the city's mask order.

Kansas City and Jackson County lifted their orders requiring face masks indoors on Friday. Mayor Quinton Lucas said the mandate was no longer enforceable.

Kansas City rescinded its emergency mask order at noon, following the Centers for Disease Control’s announcement on Thursday that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

Jackson County also lifted its mask order on Friday. In a news release, the county said it would "continue to make recommendations consistent with CDC guidelines, taking into consideration infection and vaccination rates in the County and all other relevant information to keeping the community safe."

The most recent version of Kansas City’s order allowed unvaccinated people to go maskless indoors but only with people who were vaccinated. Now Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says that, in light of the CDC’s latest guidance, he can’t in good faith impose penalties on businesses for noncompliance with the order.

Lucas says he made the decision in consultation with Kansas City Health Department Director Rex Archer.

At a news conference Friday morning, Lucas explained the reasoning behind lifting the order, saying it was no longer enforceable in practice.

“How can you regulate, how can you send out health department, environmental health folks to enforce a mask mandate that is only applied to unvaccinated persons when vaccinated and unvaccinated persons may be in the same room, may be in the same area, may be in the same Arrowhead Stadium?” Lucas asked.

“We found, somewhat regrettably, that it is the most prudent option for us now to proceed to rescind our mask mandate and Kansas City’s emergency order in its entirety.”

Lucas said that in lifting the order, he was following CDC guidance. At the same time, he pleaded with unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated.

“We can’t implore enough how important it is that you go and get vaccinated,” Lucas said.

He added: “It is safe, it is good for you, it is the way that we can protect our families, it is the way we can protect our friends and it is the way we can get back to a full normal so that by next fall, next winter, next spring, we’re looking at a world where this is a memory for us.”

Archer said the lifting of the mask mandate was both good news and bad news.

“The good news is that when you have every three out of four folks over 65 vaccinated, they now can be more reassured that they can go out and return to pre-COVID types of activities, because the vaccine, regardless of the variants that are circulating right now, is protective against death and hospitalization,” Archer said.

“The bad news is that for the folks that haven’t got vaccinated, they are now going to be at higher risk. The folks that were taking personal responsibility and getting vaccinated were also taking additional responsibility of reducing the chance of spread to those who aren’t vaccinated yet.”

The director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, said on Thursday that the agency’s new guidance was based on a sharp reduction in cases, the expansion of vaccines to younger people and the vaccines’ efficacy against coronavirus variants.

The CDC now says that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting except where required by federal, state or local laws and regulations.

“We have all longed for this moment,” Walensky said at a White House news conference on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Mask requirements remain in place in certain places and situations, including hospitals and nursing homes; traveling by air, train or bus; and congregate settings like prisons and homeless shelters.

Updated: May 14, 2021 at 12:21 PM CDT
This story has been undated to add comments made by Kansas City's mayor and health director at a news conference Friday morning.
Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
Anne Kniggendorf is a staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and freelance contributor to KCUR. She is the author of "Secret Kansas City."
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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