The Unified Government Health Department Thursday night recommended that Wyandotte County residents wear masks indoors in public spaces, but no action was taken.
In a presentation at the 6 p.m. UG Commission meeting, Health Department officials said masking was a solution to the urgent problem of the spread of the Delta variant. They recommended vaccinated and unvaccinated people wearing masks in indoor public places for six weeks.
Cases in Wyandotte County have increased to about 60 per day of the Delta variant, according to Health Department officials. Also, Kansas City area hospitals are filling up.
Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer, said case rates have increased about six times more than what they were in April in Wyandotte County.
No vote was taken Thursday night. Commissioner Christian Ramirez strongly supported the idea of a mask mandate.
The commission also discussed the legalities of a mask mandate. Senate Bill 40, passed by the Legislature, allowed anyone to challenge local COVID ordinances. Parts of the bill were overturned by a judge in Johnson County, with the Kansas attorney general stepping in to defend the law in an appeal.
Commissioner Mike Kane said his feedback was evenly split. He said he would like to see what Johnson County does before proceeding with a mask ordinance for Wyandotte County.
Kansas City, Missouri, came out with a new masking mandate for indoor public spaces earlier this week.
Commissioner Harold Johnson asked if the Health Department thought that cases would rise again in the fall and winter, as they did last year. Dr. Greiner said he really didn’t know. Delta cases in India and Britain saw case loads increase 75 to 80 percent, he said.
“The masking helps us immediately, the vaccination helps us 6 to 8 weeks out,” he said. They would like to get the vaccination rate up by the time that cold weather arrives, he said. They don’t know if there will be another variant on the horizon, he added.
Although vaccination rates are still considered low in Wyandotte County, at about 40 percent of the total population, Juliann Van Liew, Health Department director, said that Wyandotte County ranked 102 in vaccinations in April as compared to 28th in the state on Wednesday of this week. It is a testament to how hard they have worked.
The CDC has recommended masks for areas with low vaccination rates.
The No. 1 recommendation, Dr. Greiner said, is still to get vaccinated.
Dr. Greiner said the Health Department has recommended that students wear masks in grades kindergarten through 12 this fall. Also, teachers and staff should mask and all should keep a physical distance of at least 3 feet, he said.
The Health Department has been working with schools on vaccinations, he said.
On Tuesday night, a vaccination clinic at Harmon High School vaccinated more than 200 persons, he said.