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BOCC in hearing room

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners supports Governor’s mask mandate

The Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting at 10 a.m., today, July 2, to consider a Kansas Governor Executive Order #20-52, regarding a requirement to wear face masks in public settings. After more than two and half hours of discussion and public comment, the board voted to support the mask requirement. The order was posted on Governor Laura Kelly’s website this morning. She’s scheduled to present the order to the State Finance Council at 1 p.m., today. She announced her planned order at a June 29 news conference.

“Positive cases are going up, and we want to be able to safely keep Johnson County open,” Chairman Ed Eilert said. “Masks are an effective tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and we support the mandate.”

The Governor’s order will require masks to be worn in public spaces. Masks will also be required outdoors when six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. There are a number of exemptions. Children 5 and younger will not be required to wear masks when the order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m., on Friday, July 3. Those with medical conditions that prevent mask use will also be allowed an exemption. Businesses open to the public are required to comply with the order. 

Others in support of the mask mandate include Johnson County Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola and Local Health Officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster. Both shared information about the spread of COVID-19 in Johnson County during the special BOCC meeting.

“It’s pretty obvious that the increase we’re having is not a consequence of increased testing,” Dr. Areola said. “Every morning, I get to the office and reach out to our staff and ask how many cases we had overnight. Yesterday, when I asked, we had 106 cases overnight. The cases are rising. Transmission has increased. We cannot afford to not control this now. If we don’t, the impact will be huge, as we have seen in other parts of the country.”

Dr. Areola commended the work of residents who have been diligent to follow safety guidelines – maintaining six feet of physical distance, wearing masks in public, washing hands often and staying home when sick. 

“Like many jurisdictions, we’re seeing record numbers of new cases in the last 10 days, a trend in the wrong direction. Hospitalizations lag behind the increase of case onset by 2-3 weeks. If the current case increase continues, we’ll see the surge in the very near future,” Dr. LeMaster said. This increase is what we have feared would happen all along. And it is upon us. Wearing masks decreases transmission dramatically.” 

Johnson County currently has 1,816 positive cases (960 have been reported since June 1), 38,899 negatives and 88 deaths, since the first positive case on March 7. Presumed recovered is 862, which includes surviving individuals not hospitalized and more than 30 days since symptom onset.

Dr. LeMaster shared that mask use will protect vulnerable residents, children and others. It will also safeguard the hospital system.

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