Just hours after the CDC issued new guidelines Thursday saying fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors, Kansas City’s mayor announced an end to remaining KCMO mask rules — effective noon Friday — saying he won’t force businesses to face continued harassment for enforcing restrictions amid conflicting, unclear guidance.
“The challenge for local governments relates to compliance with the latest direction,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a tweet Thursday following the CDC news. “Put simply, how can an order be based on vaccination status when it need not be shared and, purportedly, unvaccinated persons and vaccinated persons would have different rules in the same space?”
Kansas City’s most recent emergency health order had already rescinded all capacity and social distancing requirements on business operations, and was set to expire May 28. Mask wearing, however, was still mandatory indoors under those rules, unless everyone present was totally vaccinated or unless all parties’ vaccination history was known to all.
“I cannot in good faith impose an order, replete with penalties for non-compliance, that is impossible for our businesses to follow,” the mayor said in a statement late Thursday.
While welcoming news that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now believe mandatory mask rules can be dropped, Lucas urged Kansas Citians to remain committed to their own health and that of their neighbors. Businesses in KCMO are still allowed to require staff, customers and visitors to wear masks, if the business’s management chooses to do so, the city said in an updated list of COVID-19 FAQs.
Click here to read about the CDC’s new guidance, as reported by KCUR, one of Startland News’ partners in the KC Media Collective.
The mayor’s follow-up to the CDC announcement comes after more than a year of public and political debates over the efficacy and business impact of pandemic restrictions — which often saw Lucas criticized for more stringent rules related to social distancing, capacity and mask wearing than many neighbors in Kansas and Missouri. He routinely defended a more-vigilant response to the threat of COVID-19, often citing local hospitalization and fatality statistics — and eventually a phase-down in restrictions as vaccinations progressed — as well as engaging with critics and supporters directly on social media.
His first emergency order related to COVID-19 went into effect in March 2020, with new orders issued as the ongoing pandemic evolved. The mayor announced new “slowdown” rules for businesses in November when COVID intensified across metro with the start of holiday gatherings. By May, the city was on its 14th emergency order, while other communities across the metro adapted their own rules on masks and social distancing.
Click here to learn more about new mask rules in Johnson County, Kansas, from the Shawnee Mission Post.
“Kansas City’s most recent order allowed all to go maskless outdoors and permitted unvaccinated persons to go maskless indoors with others who are vaccinated,” Lucas said. “As a matter of compliance, that allowed the Kansas City Health Department to check with retailers, employers, and more to ensure they were encouraging their staff to initiate the COVID-19 vaccine process.
“While welcome, [Thursday’s] CDC guidance creates confusion with Kansas City’s order. Throughout the pandemic we have endeavored to ensure clarity and effective public health guidance for Kansas Citians and, importantly, our businesses,” he continued. “Staff at many establishments have been subject to harassment based on upholding our orders and we will not force them to do so further where our regulators cannot reasonably tell between those vaccinated or not at an establishment, and where our guidance may conflict with the CDC. We have followed CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so today.”
“We will shift, as is necessary, to ensuring those needing access to the vaccine take it, and that we look out for the continued health and safety of our neighbors,” Lucas said. “We thank the many individuals and businesses in Kansas City who have worked hard to keep us all safe over the past fourteen months. We saved lives looking out for each other and all in Kansas City should be proud of the steps we have taken to protect our community’s health.”
Big news from the CDC: If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask – indoors or outdoors, in most settings.
We’ve gotten this far. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or wear a mask, please protect yourself until we get to the finish line. pic.twitter.com/XI4yPmhWaD
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 13, 2021