Kansas to begin mandatory mask policy on Friday as COVID-19 cases in state trend upward
Updated at 4:47 p.m. Monday
The state of Kansas, beginning on Friday, will require every person to wear a mask in public places where social distancing is not possible, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday.
The marked escalation in Kansas’ strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 came after the state confirmed over 900 new cases of the respiratory virus over the past weekend. Repeatedly on Monday, Kelly stressed that mask wearing is currently the only method available to slow the virus spread in any meaningful way until a vaccine is readily available.
“Wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” Kelly said. “We are not seeing (outbreaks) in businesses where masks are worn. None at barber shops, hair salons or dentist offices.”
Kelly’s announcement came mere hours after Douglas County announced that it was also instituting a mandatory mask policy in all public spaces — which will begin at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Enforcement of the policy will be up to county health departments and will remain at the local level, Kelly said.
“I know this is frustrating and you all want it to be over,” she said. “But we’re still in it.”
Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas’ top health official and the secretary of the state Department of Health and Environment, did not appear with Kelly Monday to announce the policy.
The impact of COVID-19 in Kansas now sits at 14,443 confirmed cases and 270 deaths since the pandemic began in March. Kelly opened Monday’s briefing by marking a “somber milestone” in the virus’ global toll as the world surpassed 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths.
“You can see that we are now trending upward (in Kansas),” Kelly said. “This is not good news.”
KDHE, Kelly said, would add South Carolina and Florida to the department’s list of states that require a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon a return to Kansas. The two states are among those with the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in the United States — Florida in recent days has confirmed upward of 8,000 new cases daily.
“COVID-19 is still in our communities. It is still spreading,” Kelly said. “Until a vaccine is widely manufactured and distributed, our only defense against COVID-19 is social distancing, maintaining proper hygiene, staying home when you’re sick, and wearing a mask.”
Kansas as of Monday was tracking 210 outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state, 109 of which are no longer active.
Those outbreaks have accounted for 6,406 cases and 201 deaths, and can be traced to the following locations:
• 90 from private industry, 53 of which are inactive, resulting in 764 cases and six deaths;
• 48 from long-term care facilities, 25 of which are inactive, resulting in 947 cases and 155 deaths;
• 30 from various gatherings, 15 of which are inactive, resulting in 311 cases and 14 deaths;
• 12 from meatpacking plants, three of which are inactive, resulting in 3,160 cases and 16 deaths;
• 10 from health care facilities, five of which are inactive, resulting in 74 cases;
• Nine from group living arrangements, five of which are inactive, resulting in 85 cases and three deaths;
• Four from correctional facilities, two of which are inactive, resulting in 1,027 cases and seven deaths;
• Four from day cares or schools, one of which is inactive, resulting in 16 cases;
• Three from sports, resulting in 22 cases.