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Wyandotte County Extends Mask Requirement Because Most Residents Are Still Unvaccinated

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Wyandotte County residents will have to continue wearing masks until at least Nov. 18. The mask order exempts Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and school districts.

Despite expressing cautious optimism over a recent decline in new cases of COVID-19, officials with the the Unified Government Public Health Department said positivity rates are too high to drop masks.

Wyandotte County will be extending its mask mandate until mid-November as the majority of its residents remain unvaccinated.

The Unified Government commission voted unanimously on Thursday night to extend its existing indoor mask order until Nov. 18. The original order was set to expire on Sept. 16.

The extension makes no changes to the current order that requires masks be worn in public places by adults and children over 5 years old. Edwardsville, Bonner Springs, and school districts are exempted from the order.

The county also voted unanimously to extend its state of emergency order through Dec. 16.

The Unified Government Public Health Department expressed cautious optimism over a recent decline in new cases. Dr. Erin Corriveau, the county’s deputy health officer, said in a presentation to the commission that the department is seeing a downtick in the county’s number of COVID cases.

“It does look like we may have turned the corner in number of cases that we're seeing in our community so that's really good,” Corriveau said.

Corriveau said the county’s seven-day rolling average number of cases is sitting at 63 after peaking in late August. She said the county’s positivity rate has also dropped from above 30% to just under 20% since the health department’s last presentation.

However, she said the downward trend could be impacted by a lag in data because of Labor Day closures. The county is still experiencing high community transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment listed Wyandotte County at ninth in its statewide COVID-19 ranking report. The ranking looks at counties’ vaccination rate, virus cases and testing numbers.

Wyandotte County ranks 16th for its vaccination rate, with just 40% of residents fully vaccinated against COVID. About 47% of residents have received at least one dose.

Corriveau said the county can’t let up on mitigation efforts, like masking, as the highly contagious delta variant still surges across the region.

“We're still seeing a lot of COVID cases in our community. We know that there's still community spread of this delta variant within our community and so that's really where we're focusing our efforts,” Corriveau said. “Again, we've got to stop the spread of this virus.”

Area hospitals are still strained, according to Corriveau. She said the University of Kansas Health System is seeing more than 100 COVID-19 patients a day, including many children.

She would like to see the daily case drop from above 60 to below 20 and the positivity rate drop below 10% before the county ends its mask mandate.

The commission received two public comments urging it to extend the order. One was from a child that attended school in Wyandotte County and whose grandfather died of COVID. He asked the county to keep its mask mandate until children are eligible for the vaccine.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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