A Kansas Twist—Reopening Plans for Kansas Counties: Mask Orders/School Mitigation (October 23, 2020)

#KansasCounties COVID-19 UPDATE => See the full summary review of the story below for all 105 Kansas Counties #COVID19 mitigation plans in place effective as of October 15, 2020 at the @KHIorg link here.

Update (October 23, 2020): Kansas is experiencing a new surge of COVID-19 cases, particularly in rural parts of the state that previously had few cases. Experts had predicted that virus transmission might increase at the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall as temperatures dropped, children returned to school and people began to spend more time indoors. While it is still unclear how weather and temperature may affect the spread of COVID-19, some studies report that the virus could spread more efficiently in colder and drier climates.

With record numbers of COVID-19 cases being reported across the state in October, only 33 of 105 Kansas counties had at least one public health restriction in place as of October 15. Of these, 24 counties had a mask order in place, and at least eight cities (Emporia, Hays, Manhattan, Marion, Osawatomie, Paola, Parsons, Winfield) located in counties without mask orders had implemented their own mask ordinances. (While Sedgwick County has a mask order in place and has extended it through December 9, the City of Wichita’s mask ordinance expired on October 21.)

As of October 15 the mask orders that were in effect covered a little more than two-thirds (2,067,968 people, or 71.0 percent) of the state population, essentially the same as two months before. Governor Laura Kelly indicated on October 21 that she wants to work with legislators to develop a bipartisan plan for a statewide mask policy. 

Separate from mask orders, 23 Kansas counties had other requirements in place addressing gathering size (17), restaurants/bars/nightclubs (7), retail (2), personal services (3), fitness centers/gyms/health clubs (3), indoor/outdoor leisure/entertainment activities (4), education/childcare other than school mitigation requirements (5), mass events (10), enforcement (10), institutions such as senior living, long term care and jails (4), and other (3).

Among those requirements are orders adopted by at least two counties imposing rules for school events and sports in addition to the Governor’s statewide school mitigation order. Conversely, as of October 15, 28 counties — up from 23 on August 11 — had actively rejected all or part of the school mitigation order, which includes mask wearing, social distancing, hand sanitization and daily temperature checks. Separate actions that may have been taken by individual school boards or school districts are not included in this count.

NOTE: Information was collected through a survey in collaboration with the Kansas Association of Counties and is supplemented with online searches for published orders, announcements on social media and local news sites. Counties and cities may have policies in place that were not identified by this approach and therefore are not identified properly. Actions taken by local school boards and additional school district-specific requirements were not collected. Information presented was current as of 11:59 p.m. on October 15, but is sure to change. Check back here for updates.