KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – When news broke Friday afternoon that St. Louis City and County has enacted a mask mandate requiring anyone age five and older wear a mask in indoor public places and on public transit, many people began to wonder if Kansas City will be next.
KCTV5 contacted the office of Mayor Quinton Lucas and was provided a written statement that didn’t commit one way or the other.
Some local business owners think the writing is on the wall.
At Mike’s Wine and Spirits, the staff never stopped wearing masks even though they’re all vaccinated. When the city mandate was lifted in May, some were nervous.
“You’ve got people here who have significant others with respiratory illnesses and even if they're vaccinated, they're still worried about carrying that virus with them home to one of their loved ones,” explained owner Andy Doohan.
Some, however, were glad to be done with what Doohan called “awkward” interactions with customers who didn’t want to comply, a situation that was complicated when the rules varied from city to city.
“Because maybe where they live, they don't have a mandate in place,” said Doohan, “so I think if they're going to do it, they need to do it together. I think if Kansas City puts it in and these surrounding cities don’t, then I think it’s a bad idea.”
The written statement Lucas provided Friday hints that his first effort will be just that, to try to get buy-in from other area cities and counties before deciding if he needs to go it alone.
“I am in regular communication with my friends in St. Louis and our local health leaders as we monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri, particularly the Delta variant,” he wrote. “As we have done over the past year, I will continue to collaborate with our health leaders on steps forward.”
One example of collaboration was the joint advisory last week from health departments on both sides of the state line encouraging vaccination and mask wearing for the unvaccinated. It also gave examples of when those who are vaccinated should still wear a mask.
The mayor’s office pointed out that masks are already required on public transit That includes city buses and the streetcar. The same goes for public city-owned buildings like the libraries, city hall and the airport. Those mandates never went away.
The Chief Medical Officer at the KU Health System, who said he and fellow hospital leaders may soon recommended mask mandates, elaborated Friday.
“Chief medical officers live in a world characterized right now by no beds, a lot of full hospitals and concern about how we’re going to take care of all these COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Steven Stites, MD.
“I’m not a political leader. I’m just going to say, from my standpoint, we need to be masked because I think we are under siege by this delta variant. I know we are.”
He further pressed the message for vaccination. Yes, there are breakout cases, but he said approximately 99 percent of deaths and 95 percent of hospitalizations are people unvaccinated.
One Kansas City restaurant owner who did not want to be interviewed or named said she was fuming that more people haven’t been vaccinated, because if they had been, she believes mask mandates wouldn’t even be back on the table.
The full statement from Mayor Quinton Lucas is below:
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been proud of Kansas City’s decisive leadership—which saved lives—and Kansas City government will continue to act in the best interest of the health and safety of our community.
“I am in regular communication with my friends in St. Louis and our local health leaders as we monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri, particularly the Delta variant. As we have done over the past year, I will continue to collaborate with our health leaders on steps forward.
“Still, the best way to save lives and beat the pandemic once and for all continues to be through vaccination: it is safe, highly effective, and free. While masks are not currently mandatory in Kansas City, we continue to encourage Kansas Citians to wear masks in large indoor settings, or if you are in close proximity to an unvaccinated person. Kansas City, please—please—take the vaccine if you have not yet.”