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Kansas governor issues statewide mandatory mask order

(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 12:48 PM CDT
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Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a statewide mandatory mask order starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 3).

She said she would give more guidance on the mandate on Thursday during her next briefing.

The governor Kelly said the Friday deadline will allow businesses to acquire masks for employees. She said enforcement of the order will be made on a local level, not by the state.

Under the order, most Kansans must wear masks in stores and shops, restaurants, and in any situation in which social distancing of at least six feet can't be maintained, even if outside. The official executive order will be released on Thursday and will provide specific guidance regarding under what circumstances masks must be worn.

"Wearing a mask is necessary to avoid another shutdown," Kelly said.

She pointed out that there are no clusters in businesses where masks are worn and that masks are the best defense to contain the spread of COVID-19. Without a vaccine, she said the only defenses against the virus are social distancing, proper hygiene, staying home when sick and wearing a mask.

"We now have enough data to prove that masks work, the governor said.

While there remain questions about just how effective masks can be, local and state health officials stay it's better than nothing.

"(There is) preliminary data that says that (masks) do decrease the likelihood or transmitting it from person to person," Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns said. "Can't really quantitate that at this point, but it does have some effectiveness."

During a public health emergency, there are broad powers available to public officials. In Kansas counties, issuing orders like mandates to wear masks to protect against COVID-19 are largely left up to public health as opposed to county commissioners.

Dr. Minns said he takes the position of advocating for educating people.

"Regardless if you require it or not, it's only going to work if you educate and get the buy-in of the large majority of your population or at least a sizable number of them," he said.

For businesses like the Tips and Toes nail salon in Wichita, wearing masks is a matter of helping to make sure the shop stays open.

"I do believe that wearing masks, one of many requirements in the shop, if we do it together, hopefully, we can slow down and stop the spread of the virus," said Tips and Toes salon owner Vivian Do.

Making cloth masks has kept sewers and quilters like Bev Harstine busy.

"This has been fun, I’ve gone through a lot of WSU masks. Lots of patriotic masks with Fourth of July coming up," said Harstine.

The retired nurse turned to her hobby as first a way to keep her family and friends safe. Now, she has a small business,

selling each mask for only a few dollars. She researches the best materials to make her washable masks proved the most protection possible.

"This is made from bamboo, so it's very tangled. It also is then infused with silvederma, which is silver ions that are supposed to repel microns, microbes," she said.

Harstine added, "No guarantees. There’s so much research and so many people talking on both sides as to how much good a cloth mask does."

The governor said she will announce more details about the mask mandate on Thursday.

“But by announcing the requirement today, people in our state will have the appropriate time to acquire the masks,” she said.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office will work closely with officials in Governor Kelly’s administration to ensure that the order complies with Kansas law.

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Governor Laura Kelly will hold a briefing at 4 p.m. to discuss the latest on COVID in Kansas.

The state saw a jump in 905 new cases over the weekend and six new deaths. Positive COVID-19 results have now been reported in 97 of Kansas' 105 counties.

The new numbers bring the state's total to 14,443 cases and 270 deaths.

Currently, there have been 1,152 of 10,137 cases have been hospitalized, but the rate of hospitalization remained steady from Friday to Monday at about 11%.

Patients range in age range from 0 to 103, with a median age of 39 years old.

There are 210 clusters (101 active) in Kansas accounting for 6,406 cases and 201 deaths. The highest number of deaths remain with clusters at longterm care living facilities with 155.

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