Jackson County might drop mask mandate early

Jeff Fox

Jackson County legislators appear set to vote on an early end to the county’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces. 

Legislative Chair Dan Tarwater III, D- Kansas City, said Thursday he’s still awaiting some information from the administration of County Executive Frank White Jr. but pointed out that Eastern Jackson County has fallen below a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 10 percent and said the county has slipped from CDC’s category of “high” community transmission of the disease to “substantial” transmission. 

The CDC uses a four-grade system – low, moderate, substantial and high – to designate how quickly the disease is spreading. As of Friday morning, the CDC’s webpage still listed Jackson County as high, with a case rate of 132.15 per 100,000 people over the last week; the threshold for “high” is 100. Case rate and positive test rate are the two indicators the CDC uses. 

That “high” designation us for Jackson County as a whole. The CDC says that designation means people should continue to wear masks in public. 

Tarwater said he wasn’t sure if a majority of legislators would support the change, but he put it on Monday’s County Legislature agenda. He said one legislator wanted to know more about the views of local school districts. 

The mandate runs through Nov. 7; the resolution on Monday’s agenda would end it immediately, about two weeks early. The mandate applies indoor public spaces in the county outside Independence and Kansas City, which set their own rules. Kansas City has a mask mandate; Independence does not. 

White ordered the rule in August, and legislators have renewed it twice for a month at a time. Tarwater is among three legislators who have voted not to renew the requirement. 

“I’m not opposed to masks,” said Tarwater, who had COVID before there were vaccines, has been vaccinated and said he generally wears a mask in public. “I’m just opposed to telling everyone they’re required to wear a mask.” 

Legislator Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, also has been a no vote on extending the mandate. She also said it’s not clear if Monday’s resolution will pass. 

“Well, I don’t know. … There seems to be increased interest in voting against the mask mandate,” she said. 

She also expressed a common sentiment. 

“The folks are fed up with COVID, period.”