Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says he is bringing back a mandatory mask requirement for Kansas Citians as the latest surge of COVID-19 continues to threaten the metro with heightened cases of infections and hospitalizations.
The mayor said he has followed the guidance offered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention throughout the pandemic, saying a return to masks is no different. The decision is being made based on discussion with other Kansas City leaders, Lucas said.
“We cannot ignore the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Missouri—outpacing much of the country,” the mayor said Tuesday night in a statement on Twitter. “We will do all we can to ensure our corner of this state is safe.”
Few particulars about what will be Kansas City’s next mask mandate were immediately available, including the exact effective date and the duration. But the initial plan concerns indoor public spaces and will be explained in greater detail following a call with other regional leaders Wednesday morning, according to Lucas’s spokeswoman.
The announcement comes amid renewed concerns about the spread of COVID-19’s highly contagious delta variant. The strain has been the primary driver of fresh infections as the region, state and nation are seeing lower-than-desired vaccination rates that are widely attributed to hesitance among some people to take the antiviral drugs.
In response to renewed concerns nationally, the CDC issued updated guidelines Tuesday saying everyone — including those who have been vaccinated — should return to wearing masks in public indoor spaces in parts of the country where the risk of transmission is considered high or substantial. The vast majority of new infections have been identified in people who have not received a full dose of vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City metropolitan area added more than 3,100 new COVID-19 cases this past week, an increase of 50% compared with the week before. On Tuesday, the area encompassing Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas gained 603 new cases for a total of 158,196 to date.
The metro has not added more than 600 new cases in a single day since late January.
Masks have been optional in Kansas City since the last public health order was rescinded in mid-May. At the time, the local rules had already eased some but still required face coverings in most situations where people were close to one another.
In recent days, area health experts have been asking residents to wear masks in the absence of an official requirement. Health experts also say the best thing people can do is get vaccinated.
Kansas City is the second of Missouri’s major cities to go back to masks. And the move could face opposition from state government officials.
Last week, county and city leaders in St. Louis issued a mask order for indoor public spaces in response to the rapidly advancing delta variant. They were met with a lawsuit from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt challenging the decision to issue those restrictions.
The Star’s Cortlynn Stark and Katie Moore contributed to this report.