KC area leaders end indoor mask requirements
O’FALLON, (AP) — After more than a year of severe restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in Missouri’s two urban areas, Kansas City, St. Louis and St. Louis County on Friday took major steps to allow businesses, schools and other places to return to some semblance of normal.
Kansas City completely rescinded its emergency order, effective at noon on Friday. Mayor Quinton Lucas said at a news conference that the decision was made “somewhat reluctantly” after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday allowed fully vaccinated Americans to stop wearing masks indoors in most settings.
Lucas said the CDC decision could create confusion in trying to enforce restrictions, especially since there is no passport system in place to determine which business patrons are vaccinated and which are not. As a result, the city decided to end all restrictions.
Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. announced the county also was ending its indoor mask mandate in accordance with CDC guidance. And St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page appeared together at a joint news conference to announce that they, too, were rescinding indoor mask requirements following the CDC announcement.
“This is an historic moment in the pandemic that has brought relief and hope to everyone in our community,” Page said.
Lucas, Jones and Page all noted that businesses, schools and other places can still impose their own rules.
“We’re just getting out of the enforcement business,” Lucas said.
Leaders from all three jurisdictions urged residents to get vaccinated.
“We have arrived at a point in the pandemic where we have to lean more heavily on personal accountability to prevent the spread of the virus,” St. Louis Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols said.
While Missouri Gov. Mike Parson allowed the state to largely reopen in May 2020, just a couple of months into the pandemic, the two urban areas and many other counties established their own, stricter guidelines.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued St. Louis County on Tuesday, saying its continued regulations infringed on the freedom of residents. It wasn’t immediately clear if Schmitt would rescind the lawsuit. His spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email.
Parson and Schmitt are Republicans. Lucas, White, Jones and Page are all Democrats.
The new CDC guidance announced Thursday still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Kansas City reduced restrictions last month, but still required masks in most indoor situations with crowds. Earlier this month, St. Louis city and county both ended limits on the number of people allowed in restaurants and ended an outdoor masking requirement.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service’s COVID-19 dashboard on Friday showed that at least 507,058 Missourians have contracted the virus since the onset of the pandemic, and 8,855 have died. The website indicated that 49.7% of Missourians have received at least one shot, and 39.1% are fully vaccinated.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Following the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidance, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas—in consultation with Kansas City Health Director Rex Archer, M.D.—Thursday announced that effective Friday at noon, Kansas City will rescind its Fourteenth Emergency COVID-19 Order, according to a media release from the city.
“Kansas City’s most recent order allowed all to go maskless outdoors and permitted unvaccinated persons to go maskless indoors with others who are vaccinated,” said Mayor Lucas. “As a matter of compliance, that allowed the Kansas City Health Department to check with retailers, employers, and more to ensure they were encouraging their staff to initiate the COVID-19 vaccine process. While welcome, today’s CDC guidance creates confusion with Kansas City’s order. Throughout the pandemic we have endeavored to ensure clarity and effective public health guidance for Kansas Citians and, importantly, our businesses. Staff at many establishments have been subject to harassment based on upholding our orders and we will not force them to do so further where our regulators cannot reasonably tell between those vaccinated or not at an establishment, and where our guidance may conflict with the CDC. We have followed CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so today.”
“I cannot in good faith impose an order, replete with penalties for non-compliance, that is impossible for our businesses to follow,” continued Mayor Lucas. “Accordingly, effective tomorrow at noon, Kansas City will rescind its Fourteenth Emergency Order. We will shift, as is necessary, to ensuring those needing access to the vaccine take it, and that we look out for the continued health and safety of our neighbors. We thank the many individuals and businesses in Kansas City who have worked hard to keep us all safe over the past fourteen months. We saved lives looking out for each other and all in Kansas City should be proud of the steps we have taken to protect our community’s health.”