People in hotspots must mask up in state buildings, Kansas governor announces

Coronavirus

TOPEKA (KSNT) – New guidance from the Kansas governor’s Wednesday press conference means COVID-19 precautions are coming back to the state.

The governor said the COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading “like wildfire” through the state and country, and so the state will follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance asking for masks regardless of vaccine status. Beginning Monday, the governor announced state employees will all have to wear masks indoors at works, even if they are vaccinated. The public will also have to wear masks when they enter state government buildings.

The governor later clarified during the press conference, gesturing to a map, that the new rule only applies to counties marked “red” or “orange” as COVID-19 hot zones. Areas marked “blue” or “yellow” on her map do not have to follow the rule. Kelly also said she would defer to local governments to decide if they will require masks in their properties, or in schools, regardless of if they are in a hotspot. She gave the same choice to private businesses.

A close-up of the map showing COVID-19 hotspots in Kansas. (KSNT Photo/Rebekah Chung)

Based on Kelly’s map, the new masking rule will apply to the vast majority of the state, including in Shawnee County, Douglas County, Johnson County and all of their surrounding counties.

“Oh, how I’ve missed this place,” Kelly said, sarcastically, to begin the meeting. “We’ve been brought together mostly through a self-inflicted problem. Close to half of our population has refused to get a vaccine that is safe.”

The governor’s press conference came the same day as Shawnee County’s health officer asked everyone in the area to wear a mask indoors and limit mass gatherings, noting a local rise in COVID-19 cases. Kelly previously said Tuesday that the state was reviewing the new advice from the CDC and its impact on Kansas, but that her administration plans to follow suit.

“While we are still reviewing the new guidance and what it means for Kansas, this administration has consistently followed the recommendations from the experts at the CDC – and we don’t intend to stop. Right now Kansas is at a crossroads. The new Delta variant has caused COVID-19 to surge in our communities and some of our hospitals are moving towards capacity. The bad news is that parts of our state fall into the “hot spot” category for new cases, the good news is we have a vaccine to protect us from the virus that is safe, effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, and free. I strongly urge every Kansan who isn’t vaccinated to get one right away. That is the best way to stop the spread of COVID in our state. For those who are vaccinated, I ask that you speak with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are unvaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated to protect themselves and our state.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly

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