TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Wearing masks in public will soon be mandatory in Kansas. This comes after Governor Laura Kelly announced at her press conference on Monday that masks would be required beginning Friday, July 3, 2020.
The decision to wear or not wear a mask has become a divisive issue in the United States. But doctors say masks work well to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’ve known that since 1527 when they first employed them for the Bubonic plague and it’s been used ever since,” explained Kansas’ top doctor, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Lee Norman.
According to Dr. Norman, face masks can be 60% effective at preventing the spread of germs and when combined with social distancing and proper sanitation, that percentage goes up. He added that because there is no medicine or vaccine for the coronavirus, any and all steps to prevent the spread must be taken and, based on the case numbers, that may be the case for quite some time.
“We’re probably, a year or two years, still going to be fighting with some of these things, so we’re kind of barely into this,” Norman said. “I think we need to get used to it and they do work.”
Governor Kelly said she will be releasing the specifics of her mask mandate on Thursday. This will include guidance for the counties on how to enforce the mandate. In the end, the decision to require face masks in public remains with the counties.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she feels the Governor’s order is going too far.
“I think most Kansans don’t like mandates,” said Wagle.
She says, in many counties, coronavirus cases have not been increasing or are only increasing by less than 5 cases.
“Most counties are very reluctant to enforce a mask rule and we’ve certainly learned that not one size fits all,” added Senator Wagle. “So there are concerns that this is a statewide mandate.”
Under the legislature’s coronavirus bill, that was passed during the June special session, all of the Governor’s orders must be discussed by the State Finance Council. The council is planning to meet on Thursday, July 2. However, the council does not have the authority to reject this mask mandate. Again, it will be left to the counties to decide if they require citizens to wear face masks.
Secretary Norman said that very few people have a legitimate medical excuse to not wear a face mask, despite many using breathing problems as an excuse to not wear one. He added that no one enjoys wearing face masks, but if people can find one that is comfortable for them, it makes it easier.
“You don’t need to wear an N95 mask,” said Norman. “Surgical masks work great, cloth masks can work very well.”
Secretary Norman continued that cloth masks should be washed at the end of every day. It’s also important to not touch the mask too much, to prevent bacteria from getting to the nose or mouth. Masks should be word over the nose and mouth and fit snugly to the face, without being uncomfortable.