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Kansas City Health Department Not Looking To Mandate Masks As COVID Resurges

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Jodi Fortino
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KCUR 89.3
Nearly all customers at Messenger Coffee wore their face masks while in line in May.

Although mask mandates are unlikely to return, a recent recommendation by the Kansas City Health Department signals that the pandemic is far from over.

The coronavirus has spread rapidly through unvaccinated communities in southwestern Missouri with the introduction of the more contagious Delta variant.

But cases are also surging in Kansas City: An average of 142 new infections are being reported every day, more than double the rate from the beginning of June. And an average of 92 residents are now being hospitalized for COVID daily.

Doctors and health care providers warn that an even worse surge may come at the start of the school year. Kansas City Public Schools has not instituted a mask requirement for the fall.

"We're telling parents that their kids don't have to wear masks," says city health director Dr. Rex Archer. "That's a recipe for disaster."

On Friday, health departments across Kansas City issued an advisory that unvaccinated people and those with underlying medical conditions should return to wearing face masks.

Archer says reinstating local mask mandates alone wouldn't solve the problem. Instead, mask mandates need to come from the state of Missouri in order for them to work.

"Very few folks live, shop, pray, play, and go to school in just one jurisdiction," Archer says. "And so if any one single jurisdiction tries to do something, it’s not very effective.”

While many people who haven't been vaccinated yet don't ever plan to, University of Kansas Dr. Branden Comfort says there are still those who haven't been able to.

"If we can have some targeted outreach to our patients from people that they know and trust, I think that can go a long way," Comfort says.

  • Dr. Branden Comfort, assistant professor and family care physician, University of Kansas Health System
  • Dr. Rex Archer, director, Kansas City Health Department
Steve Kraske is the host of KCUR's Up To Date. Follow him on Twitter @stevekraske.
Trevor Grandin is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date.