The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, passed a new COVID-19 health order that removes requirements for wearing masks outdoors but still has the public wearing masks indoors in most cases.
Employees and visitors of indoor places of public accommodation age 5 or older have to continue wearing masks. In bars or restaurants, masks can come off when visitors are eating or drinking.
Masks are not required when everyone in an indoor place is vaccinated.
There’s no social distancing requirement outdoors.
The Unified Government’s latest order bears strong resemblance to those approved this week by Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties.
It does not go as far as what the Johnson County Board of Commissioners decided on Thursday. That action rescinded all mandates for mask wearing and social distancing. Johnson County now only makes recommendations.
“We do feel at this time it is not an appropriate step to take to remove health orders altogether,” said Juliann Van Liew, Unified Government Public Health Department director. “And that’s because the mask wearing indoors remains crucial.”
Misty Brown, a Unified Government attorney, clarified that the indoor mask requirement applies to places of public accommodation.
“I think technically if it was a private place not open to the public whatsoever, I think technically they would fall outside the scope of this ordinance,” Brown said during a meeting of the Unified Government Commission.
The order also applies to Edwardsville and Bonner Springs, smaller cities in Wyandotte County.
Commissioners on Thursday exhorted residents to get their vaccinations.
“That’s my challenge, Wyandotte County: Get off your duffs and get your shot, will you?” said District 8 Commissioner Jane Philbrook.
In Wyandotte County, where they are seeing about 15 new coronavirus cases each day, about 28% of its residents have gotten at least their first dose of the vaccine. One in five have completed vaccination.
Health leaders expressed concern that demand for vaccinations has dropped markedly. In late March, the county was administering some 5,500 shots a week. Now the rate is about 1,500.
“We are slightly worried we don’t have the demand we did have for a bit,” said Allen Greiner, medical officer for the Unified Government.
The minimum for herd immunity — the point at which enough people are immune from COVID-19 that continued spread becomes unlikely — is considered 70%. Greiner said at the current vaccination rate, it won’t be until early next year that Wyandotte County reaches herd immunity.
“That’s a long time,” Greiner said. “We would like to see that happen much quicker.”
Anyone 16 or older is eligible to get a vaccination in Wyandotte County.
“We continue to run into folks in our community who just don’t know yet that they themselves and their family members are eligible,” Van Liew said.
Wyandotte County in particular is trying to increase the vaccination rates among men, Blacks and young adults, all of whom have lower rates than other groups.
The county is preparing to launch mobile vaccination teams that will administer shots at businesses, organizations or those who can’t easily leave their homes.
“We need to come to where people are,” Van Liew said. “We need to come to where they feel safe.”
More information on mobile vaccinations can be found at wycovaccines.org.
Wyandotte County is still maintaining three mass vaccination sites. Starting on May 10, the days of operation will change:
▪ The Armory, 100 S. 20th St., Wednesday through Saturday
▪ Former K-Mart building, 7836 State Avenue, Monday through Friday
▪ Former Best Buy building, 10500 Parallel Parkway, Monday and Tuesday