Kansas Governor orders masks to be worn in public at work

Democratic Governor Laura Kelly issued an order directing Kansas residents to wear masks in public places and their workplaces.

TOPEKA, Kan. – Democratic Governor Laura Kelly issued an order Thursday that Kansas residents wear masks in public places and their workplaces, likely to provoke a backlash from the Republican-controlled Legislature, although the application is expected be lax.

Kelly issued the order after the state experienced an increase in coronavirus cases reported after its decision to lift state restrictions on business and public meetings on May 26. She left the rules to the state’s 105 counties after weeks of complaints from Republican lawmakers that she, too, would be moving. slowly to reopen the economy. The new mask requirement will take effect at 12:01 am Friday.

The governor’s order says Kansas residents must wear masks in indoor public spaces, while seeking medical attention or using public transportation. It also says that people should wear them outdoors in public when they can’t stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others. Companies should require their employees to wear masks in places frequented by the public, even if members of the public are not present or if they prepare food.

The requirement would not apply to children under the age of 6, deaf people, or people with medical conditions that make it difficult to breathe through a mask or prevent them from removing a mask without help. The rule also does not apply to Legislature meetings or judicial proceedings.

“We all want to return to our normal lives and routines,” Kelly said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across our state and our country. We must act.”

Kansas has reported nearly 15,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus since the pandemic began in early March and had reported 272 COVID-19-related deaths as of Wednesday. Since Kelly lifted state restrictions on business and public gatherings immediately after Memorial Day, Kansas has had 5,653 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, representing an increase of 61% and 84 deaths, a jump of 45%.

Republicans have already criticized Kelly’s plans to issue the order, arguing it will sow confusion. A new pandemic law that went into effect in June, as a result of a compromise between it and lawmakers, allows counties to opt out of receiving the governor’s health orders, and even if they don’t, they are not expected to Local officials in many places vigorously enforce mask requirement.

Kelly planned to meet with legislative leaders Thursday afternoon to review the order. They do not have the power to block it.

Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area and Douglas County in northeast Kansas, which is home to the main campus of the University of Kansas, already require masks. Wyandotte County had nearly 2,400 coronavirus cases reported as of Wednesday, most of any county in the state.

The Douglas County health official also ordered bars to close there for two weeks, starting Friday, after COVID-19 cases were reported to more than double in the past two weeks, from 85 to 188 as of Wednesday.

Kelly’s health secretary Dr. Lee Norman predicted on Wednesday that the state would face further increases in coronavirus cases and suggested that he wasted his chance for a summer respite from the pandemic by reopening its economy too quickly. He also said that Kansas is “nowhere near” at the end of the first wave of the pandemic.


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