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Kansas county: Schools should mandate masks for unvaccinated

July 19, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this March 31, 2021, file photo, students wear masks as they wait in line for lunch at Wyandotte County High School in Kansas City, Kan. Johnson County District Judge David Hauber, in Kansas' most populous county, has struck down as unconstitutional a state law requiring unusually speedy legal hearings for people challenging mask requirements and other COVID restrictions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
FILE - In this March 31, 2021, file photo, students wear masks as they wait in line for lunch at Wyandotte County High School in Kansas City, Kan. Johnson County District Judge David Hauber, in Kansas' most populous county, has struck down as unconstitutional a state law requiring unusually speedy legal hearings for people challenging mask requirements and other COVID restrictions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The health department in Kansas’ most populous county urged its public schools Monday to require students and staff who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks indoors when classes resume for the fall.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s guidance came with confirmed cases of the faster-spreading delta variant continuing to rise across Kansas and fueling larger numbers of new COVID-19 cases overall.

“We want a return to normalcy, but we need to be cautious and get vaccinated if eligible.” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, the department’s director.

Lance Williamson, a registered nurse and infection prevention consultant for the University of Kansas Health System, said wearing masks is a “basic precaution” against COVID-19.

“Especially when you’re unsure of the unvaccinated people versus vaccinated people in an area, it’s just easier to have everyone wear a mask,” he said during a daily health system webcast.

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The state reported Monday that confirmed delta variant cases increased by 20% since Friday, up 158 to 950. Confirming variant cases requires genetic testing of patients’ nasal swabs or saliva samples.

State data also showed that Kansas averaged 440 new COVID-19 cases overall for the seven days ending Monday, the highest such average since Feb. 26.

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