Johnson County issues public health order

Masks required in school buildings attended by students up to and including sixth grade

Today, the Board of County Commissions (sitting as the Board of Public Health) voted to issue a public health order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The order pertains to schools attended by students up to and including sixth grade. Children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Additional steps must be taken to reduce the risk of transmission among children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated,” said Chairman Ed Eilert, Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. “Students benefit from in-person learning and the interactions with others in the school setting.”

“We have seen outbreaks with camps, small businesses and childcare establishments. We are also seeing our incident and positivity rates increasing and it is affecting our younger residents/school aged children,” said Dr. Joseph LeMaster, local health officer for Johnson County. “Risk of transmission in schools is high.”

The public health order goes into effect Aug. 9 and remains in effect until May 31, 2022, unless amended or revoked. Johnson County Department of Health and Environment staff members are working closely with local superintendents to implement safe and effective strategies to reduce transmission in schools. This public health order establishes safety protocol consistency among Johnson County schools.

“The delta variant has unfortunately become the dominant strain in our country and is the most infectious strain of this virus we have encountered so far,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “Coupled with the fact that children under 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated, today’s public health order is an appropriate step aimed at keeping our children safe and allowing them to benefit from in-person learning.”

Details on Johnson County Board of Health Order No. 001-21

  • Masks or other face coverings are required for all children inside a school building where any students through and including sixth grade attend class, unless actively eating or drinking.
  • Includes children in higher grades who attend school in buildings where children in sixth or lower grades also attend school unless sixth graders are physically separated from higher grades throughout the school day.
  • Masks or other face coverings are required for all faculty, staff, and visitors while inside a school building where any students through and including sixth grade attend class, unless actively eating or drinking.
  • Unless otherwise required by the school, children, faculty, staff, and visitors do not need to wear masks when outdoors on school property, including elementary level recess.
  • All bus riders must wear a mask when riding on a school bus unless documentation has been submitted to the school for a medical mask exemption.
  • Exemptions include those who:
    • Have a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.
    • Communicate with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
    • Are engaged in religious services, ceremonies or activities.
    • Are engaged in activities and athletics inside school buildings, who should follow KSHSAA and/or school guidelines.
  • This order applies to all public and private K-12 schools within Johnson County.
  • The Board of Education for each unified school district within Johnson County and the respective governing body of each K-12 private school within Johnson County shall be responsible for enforcement of this order.

Current COVID-19 infection and vaccination information in Johnson County, Kansas (as of Aug. 5)

  • Comparison of new COVID-19 cases per week reported this summer.
    • Week of May 30:  67
    • Week of June 27: 163
    • Week of July 25: More than 900 cases were reported.

Rate of full vaccinations among those ages 12-17 years in Johnson County is less than 40%.

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