301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

6.29.20 – www.kansas.com 

Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday she is ordering Kansans to wear face masks in public spaces beginning July 3, as coronavirus cases surge upwards across the state and nation.

The order, effective Friday, is almost certain to spark a backlash in the conservative state. Local leaders will confront a tough choice over whether they will try to overturn the directive — an option counties appear to have under new state law that stripped the governor of some of her emergency authority during the pandemic.

“This doesn’t change where you can go or what you can do. It just means if you’re around other people, you must wear a mask,” Kelly said during a news conference.TOP ARTICLES  00:30 / 00:30As ticks come to Kansas, Kansans come with solutions

The Democratic governor acknowledged that she expects “some who will be outraged” by the mandate. But she said even Republican leaders elsewhere in the nation have spoken out about the value of masks.

As of Monday, 14,443 people have tested positive for the virus in Kansas. Kelly emphasized the massive influx of more than 900 new cases over the weekend along with six deaths, bringing the total to 270.

A text version of the order wasn’t immediately available, but Kelly said details would be released on Thursday, the day before the requirement goes into effect. She said making the announcement now would give Kansans time to acquire masks. The order will eventually be reviewed by the State Finance Council, a panel made up of top Republican and Democratic lawmakers and chaired by Kelly.

Breaking news & more

Sign up for one of our many newsletters to be the first to know when big news breaksSIGN UP

The statewide mandate comes as counties have begun to wrestle with whether to impose their own local mask requirements. A mask order was already set to go into effect in Wyandotte County, and Douglas County announced one just hours before Kelly.

Before Kelly’s announcement, Johnson County said it will continue to strongly recommend — but not require — that residents wear masks.

“One of the key issues, in my judgment, is how you can effectively enforce a mandate. If you’re going to mandate something, then you need to be able to enforce that, and I’ve seen no effective way to do that,” Ed Eilert, county commissioner chairman, said Monday. “We continue to strongly encourage it. And I think we all need to understand that we have a responsibility to take action to mitigate the spread.”

Across the border, Kansas City and Jackson County are also adopting a mask requirement. Both Clay and Platte counties in Missouri say they are studying similar measures.