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After Raucous Meeting, Kansas City Council Committee Votes To Extend Mask Mandate

MaskProtests.JPG
Jodi Fortino
/
KCUR 89.3
The last of a line of demonstrators holds signs at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy to protest the extension of the city's mask mandate.

A Kansas City council committee voted to extend the city's current mask mandate, as people in the crowd yelled "tyrant" and "we will not comply." The full council will vote on Thursday.

Kansas Citians could be required to mask up until the end of September upon the passage of a new city ordinance.

The city council's transportation, infrastructure and operations committee unanimously voted to extend its existing indoor mask order until Sept. 23 on Wednesday night amid an outcry from those in the audience. The full council is set to vote on the measure Thursday.

The mandate requires that people aged 5 and older wear masks indoors in public venues, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. The original order was slated to end on Aug. 28.

Dozens of demonstrators lined up outside the Kansas City Regional Police Academy and reluctantly masked up to enter Wednesday night’s meeting. However, masks did not appear to be enforced once audience members entered the auditorium.

Impassioned residents spoke out against the mask mandate for nearly two hours during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“We're 18 months into this. We've lived with this. We know what the health risks are. You are insulting the intellectual capacity of Kansas Citians by continuing to do mandates. We don't need mandates,” said Kansas City resident Heath Wessling.

Speakers were met with applause and standing ovations from a vocal audience. Many speakers claimed the city’s mandate was governmental overreach and spoke against the effectiveness of masking. Others downplayed the risks of COVID-19.

Crowd members also heckled Frank Thompson, interim director of the city’s health department, during his presentation to the committee.

The new ordinance notes that Kansas City’s weekly average for new COVID-19 cases is the highest in almost six months, and that local hospitals are nearing capacity.

Thompson pointed out the need to increase vaccinations as the delta variant drives up COVID cases across the region.

“One of the things that would really help to get us out of this pandemic would be to reach the vaccination goal of 70%... we have a long way to go in order to reach that,” Thompson said.

Kansas City’s vaccination rate sits at 41% as of Aug. 17. Thompson said the department now estimates the city will hit its goal by December.

MaskProtestors.JPG
Jodi Fortino
/
KCUR 89.3
Protesters stand outside the Kansas City Regional Police Academy as the city council committee prepared to vote on an extension of its mask mandate.

Other speakers discussed concerns about the masking of children, impacts of mandates on small businesses and the proposed penalties included in the ordinance.

Those who do not comply with the ordinance could face the standard penalty for violating a city ordinance — a fine of at least $25 and not more than $500, or imprisonment for at least one day.

Only one speaker was in support of the mandate, and expressed her disappointment with the general tone of the meeting.

“I applaud you Mayor Lucas, the health department and the city council for caring enough about the citizens of Kansas City, to encourage us to get vaccinated, to encourage us to wear a mask and do everything that we can do to protect our health, despite what people believe,” said Margaret Mosbocher.

Councilmembers ended the meeting abruptly to vote without further discussion after the audience continued to interrupt their attempts to speak.

On Tuesday, the North Kansas City Council voted 7-1 to extend its indoor mask mandate until Sept. 25.

Both cities’ moves follow a new state law that restricts local governments from issuing public health orders for longer than 30 days. Orders may be extended with a majority vote by the local governing body.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit earlier this month that aims to overturn Kansas City’s mask mandate. The lawsuit is virtually identical to a complaint he filed in St. Louis County.

A St. Louis judge temporarily blocked that mandate after the St. Louis County Council voted to rescind it. A judge extended the restraining order on Tuesday.

Kansas City’s ordinance to extend its mask mandate will go before the full city council on Thursday. Lucas said earlier this month that the order had the support of the council.

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