Independence, Jackson County and Kansas City drop mask mandates after CDC guidance update

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

The city of Independence and Jackson County lifted mask requirements and social distancing capacity restrictions Friday following Thursday’s updated guidance from the CDC. Kansas City also dropped its mask mandate. 

In Independence, masks are still required on public transportation, per federal guidelines, and private and public businesses, places of worship and schools may still require masks and social distancing. 

The city says those who have not been vaccinated are still strongly encouraged to wear a mask in all public settings. 

Jackson County will continue to require masks in its facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people could discontinue wearing masks indoors and outdoors, with limited exceptions, unless otherwise required by local rules. 

“Our community has made tremendous sacrifices and shown incredible strength and compassion over the past 14 months,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said in a release, “and today marks a significant milestone in our public health efforts to battle the global pandemic.” 

The city had required that entertainment and recreation facilities for large gatherings – 300 or more – limit capacity enough to maintain 6 feet of social distancing between patrons or groups. 

More:Jackson County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 30% of people fully vaccinated

Kansas City also rescinded its mask mandate. Mayor Quinton Lucas said on Twitter late Thursday that the new CDC guidance “creates confusion with Kansas City's order.” As a result, the city's COVID-19 emergency order is being terminated. 

“I cannot in good faith impose an order, replete with penalties for non-compliance, that is impossible for our businesses to follow,” Lucas wrote. 

St. Louis and St. Louis County also may be about to further ease restrictions. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page planned an announcement on Friday. 

Vaccines are now available to any person age 12 and older, as regulators this week approved the Pfizer vaccine for children age 12-15. 

As of Thursday, according the Mid-America Regional Council’s dashboard, 29.8 percent of residents in Jackson County outside of Kansas City had been fully vaccinated, and 35.2 percent of residents had at least started the vaccine regimen, with more than 243,700 doses administered. 

The latter figure includes more than 16,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses administered this year by the Independence Health Department, assisted by Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, since the department was reinstated late in 2020.  

In Kansas City, 30.3 percent of residents have been vaccinated and the 36.7 percent have at least started the regimen, with nearly 320,000 total doses administered. 

Percentages are based on the entire population, some of which have been eligible for the vaccine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.