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Jackson County ends mask mandate early, despite high risk of COVID transmission

Jackson County legislators in session Friday.
Jackson County Legislature
Jackson County legislators in session on Friday, Nov. 12.

Two weeks before the mandate was slated to expire, Jackson County legislators voted 5-4 Friday to end the mandate early. 

In voting to end Jackson County’s mask mandate two weeks ahead of its Nov. 22nd expiration date, several county legislators said they’d received many emails and letters from constituents complaining that masks are still required.

Legislator Theresa Cass Galvin said that 95% of her recent emails have been negative.

“The people within Jackson County want this over with. They’re tired, they’re fed up,” said Galvin. “I don’t know about you guys but when I’ve been out lately, the majority of people aren’t wearing masks. And if they are wearing masks, they’re not wearing them correctly. It’s for show.”

County Executive Frank White, Jr. however, opposed ending the mandate and wanted to wait until Nov. 22 to allow time for more children to get vaccinated.

“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have committed myself to empowering and supporting public health officials and medical experts,” White said before the vote.

“This morning, Jackson County’s public health officials, citing CDC guidance, recommended that our universal masking requirements remain in place due to our high level of community transmission,” White said. “I supported their recommendation because I trust them to keep us safe and I believe science and facts matter.”

White encouraged residents to continue to protect themselves and each other by wearing masks in public.

Legislator Dan Tarwater III, who introduced the resolution, pointed out that Kansas City ended its mask mandate for indoor spaces other than schools on Nov. 4.

“By no means are we saying people should never wear a mask,” Tarwater said. “There are still people that should wear a mask, you know, and the kids, before they get vaccinated, should wear a mask, immune compromised, all that is there. So it would be a person’s decision.”

Jackson County Health Director Bridgette Shaffer told legislators that COVID-19 case numbers have plateaued in recent weeks, but according to the CDC, Jackson and surrounding counties are still an area of high transmission.

She recommended that everyone in Jackson County should continue wearing masks.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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