Kansas lawmakers revoke governor’s statewide mask order
TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update: The Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council voted, 5-2, Thursday afternoon to revoke a statewide mask mandate. The decision came just hours after Gov. Laura Kelly issued the new executive order Thursday morning.
It’s now up to individual counties to decide if they want to issue a local health order. Most, like Sedgwick County, say that won’t happen. Last week, the county commission adopted a resolution to drop all restrictions in public places and issued recommendations instead. This means businesses can make the decision to require masks or drop restrictions altogether.
Kansas leaders in the legislature said they felt it was best to overturn the mask order as cases across the state continue to trend down. They said they can always reconsider this decision if we see another spike.
“The ramifications of the one-size-fits-all mandate does not affect any local order in place. I believe most counties opted out of the mandate when cases were much higher than they are today. Thankfully, they have come down,” said Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, a Republican congressman from Ottawa.
Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), and Finch issued the following joint statement:
“Public health mandates should be short-term, data-driven and reserved only for pressing emergency situations. They should not be used to dictate Kansans’ daily lives year after year. If data is the real driver behind the Governor’s approach, then let’s rely on the numbers. In November, the Governor issued her last statewide mask mandate saying there was a “worrying spike” in cases. At that time, Kansas had 5,217 new cases and a 7-day average of 2,430 new cases. Now, Kansas has only 36 new cases and a 7-day average of 216 cases.
Kansans have banded together for over a year to successfully reduce the spread of COVID – and they’ve done so during a time when most counties had opted out of the Governor’s mask mandate. With cases dropping and no data to support the need for another statewide mandate, the best approach has proven to be local control. We support the continued ability of communities to tailor solutions that work for them, and we urge all Kansans to continue to practice recommended measures of infection control for their health and the health of those around them.”
Governor Laura Kelly issued several executive orders on Thursday including a new mask order for Kansas. As with her previous order, local jurisdictions with their own mask orders in place are exempt.
The governor said the orders help to ensure Kansas can maintain critical pandemic response efforts to keep Kansans healthy, keep businesses open, and keep kids in school.
The orders extend provisions put in place by previous executive orders and include some updated provisions.
“Since the pandemic began, my administration has been laser-focused on supporting and protecting our communities and our economy,” Governor Kelly said. “Extending these orders will ensure that our efforts will not have been wasted, and that Kansans and businesses don’t lose the resources they need to get back to normal.”
Several executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic were set to expire on March 31 in conjunction with the expiration of the state of disaster emergency. Senate Bill 40 includes a provision that revoked all executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, but the governor retains the authority to re-issue orders under the new process imposed by the bill.
The following orders will generally remain in effect until rescinded or until the statewide state of disaster emergency expires, whichever is earlier:
- 21-09 – Extending professional and occupational licenses during state of disaster emergency
- 21-10 – Temporarily allowing notaries and witnesses to act via audio-video communication technology during state of disaster emergency
- 21-11 – Temporarily suspending certain rules relating to sale alcoholic beverages
- 21-12 – Licensure, Certification, and Registration for persons and Licensure of “Adult Care Homes” during state of disaster emergency
- 21-13 – Temporarily prohibiting certain foreclosures and evictions
- 21-14 – Establishing a face coverings protocol (exempts local jurisdictions with their own mask orders in place)
- 21-15 – Requiring COVID-19 testing in certain adult care homes
- 21-16 – Provisions related to drivers’ license and identification cards during the state of disaster emergency
- 21-17 – Temporary relief from certain unemployment insurance requirements during state of disaster emergency
- 21-18 – Temporary provisions for employer payment of income tax withholding for work performed in another state
- 21-19 – Temporary relief from certain tuberculin testing requirements during state of disaster emergency
- 21-20 – Extending time for Kansas rural water districts to hold annual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 21-21 – Temporary authorization for additional vaccinators during state of disaster emergency
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