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Jackson County Reinstates Mask Mandate, As Attorney General Tries To Stop Kansas City’s Order

County Executive Frank White at podium.
File-Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
County Executive Frank White announced Wednesday that Jackson County will reinstate a mask order which takes effect Monday, August 9, 2021.

The new order takes effect on Monday and will last 30 days. Any extension must be approved by the county legislature.

Jackson County Executive Frank White announced Wednesday that he will be following Kansas City’s lead and reinstating a mask mandate.

Starting Monday, people ages 5 and older will have to wear masks in indoor public places — even if they've been vaccinated.

In an announcement, White said the order is in response to the rising number of COVID-19 infections driven by the region’s spread of the delta variant and low vaccination rates.

“I take no joy in making this announcement today, and quite frankly, am saddened that despite our best efforts, this virus is taking a devastating toll on our county, region and nation once again,” White said in a news release.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have relied upon our public health and medical professionals to provide us with the data and guidance that we need to make informed decisions based on science and not on politics. Wearing a mask may not be fun, but it is our best shot at preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed, keeping our businesses open and our kids in school.”

White announced last week that starting Sept. 30, all full-time and part-time Jackson County staff will have to show proof of full vaccination, or else receive a COVID test each week.

The Jackson County Health Department reported that daily new cases have nearly tripled in the last month. The seven-day average of daily new cases was 43.14 the week of June 27 and jumped to 117.71 the week of July 25.

Hospitalizations across the region are also up by 75%, reaching levels last seen in January. The department said that Truman Medical Centers/University Health has reported nine deaths from COVID-19 in the past two weeks. All were unvaccinated people.

A new state law will limit the health order to thirty days and will take the majority support of the county legislature to extend it.

The announcement comes the day after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt made good on his threat to sue Kansas City over its new mask mandate, drawing a swift rebuke from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who lashed out at him for politicizing the issue.

Schmitt's lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, is virtually identical to a suit he filed to overturn a similar mask mandate in St. Louis County.

A St. Louis judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked that mandate after the St. Louis County Council voted to rescind it last week. The judge scheduled a hearing on Aug. 17 to determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

In both lawsuits, Schmitt argues the mandates are unconstitutional, arbitrary and capricious, and examples of government overreach.

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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