Kansas governor mandates statewide use of masks
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she will issue an executive order mandating the use of masks in public spaces starting Friday to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The evidence could not be clearer — wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” the Democratic governor told reporters Monday.
Kelly’s executive order would require people to wear a mask when they are around others. She said her administration will issue specific guidance on Thursday when the executive order is released and will work with the attorney general’s office to implement the policy.
Under the order, masks will be required in stores, restaurants and in any situation where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained, including outside.
Local officials would enforce the policy.
“This is all we’ve got right now to fight this virus and it is up to each one of us to do our part,” Kelly said.
Kansas health officials on Monday reported at least 14,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 905 since Friday. The state also had six more deaths, bringing the total to 270. Kansas reported that 1,152 people had been hospitalized.
“We have now enough data to really prove that masks work and no masks don’t work,” Kelly said. “I think it is in everybody’s interest.”
Kelly said the state has not seen clusters in places like barbershops, hair salons or dental offices where masks are worn, but has seen a significant increase in places where masks are not worn.
“This doesn’t change where you can go or what you can do, it just means if you are around other people you must wear a mask,” Kelly said. “That also means if you are outside and social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained, you should wear a mask.”
Douglas and Wyandotte counties had previously announced their own plans to require masks.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican often at odds with Kelly, said in a statement that a one-size-fits-all order like Kelly’s wouldn’t work for a diverse state.
“She’s inconsistent in her direction, one day giving authority to local government, and the next, taking it back, causing total confusion,” Wagle said.
Kelly said she realized that some people may be outraged by the mask order, but said it is needed “if we want a healthy Kansas economy.”
Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature passed a bill giving lawmakers some oversight of Kelly’s response to the pandemic.
Kelly and top Republicans had been locked for weeks in a dispute over how quickly to reopen the state’s economy. She imposed a statewide stay-at-home order from March 30 through May 3 and initially had planned to keep some restrictions on businesses and mass gatherings in place until at least June 23. She abruptly changed course and allowed the state’s 105 counties to set the rules. The dispute over closing businesses then faded.