Kansas City, Kansas, ends its mask mandate early despite growing COVID-19 cases

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Commissioners with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, put aside concerns from public health officials about growing COVID-19 cases when it voted to drop its mask mandate Thursday.

Despite pleas from public health experts, elected officials in Kansas City, Kansas, decided Thursday night to end the city’s mask mandate early.

It’s the latest municipality in the metropolitan area to repeal the requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places. Kansas City, Missouri, no longer requires masks except for schools, while Johnson County, Kansas, recommends masks but doesn’t require it.

On Thursday, commissioners with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, narrowly approved the mask mandate repeal by a 6-4 vote. The requirement would have otherwise remained in place until Jan. 6.

The repeal went against the wishes of public health officials, who warned commissioners about the increase in new COVID-19 infections and the strain on hospitals in the region.

“I think to myself: Is this really the time to stop wearing masks?” said Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer for Wyandotte County. “I think that answer is absolutely not.”

Juliann Van Liew, the public health director for the Unified Government, said fewer than half of residents in Kansas City, Kansas, were fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the omicron variant of COVID-19 was officially recorded in Kansas on Thursday. Research indicates that the omicron variant is more transmissible than earlier variants of COVID-19.

“We are seeing a dramatic rise in cases, not just in Wyandotte County, but across the metro,” Van Liew said. “We are concerned.”