Kansas City Removes Mask Mandates for Population That's Less Than Half Vaccinated

The Wyandotte County (Kansas) Commission has ended COVID mask mandates despite having few fully-vaccinated people. Commissioners voted late Thursday night to rescind the face mask requirement that was imposed in indoor public places.

Less than half of the residents in Kansas City, Kansas are fully vaccinated against COVID, according to Juliann Van Liew, the public health director for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, NPR's KCUR reported.

Public health experts have warned commissioners that over 56 percent of people in Wyandotte County have received only one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to NBC's KSHB, while only 47.4 percent of the county's population are fully vaccinated.

The mask mandate would have remained in place until January 6 in the case that more commissioners decided to vote against ending it early, according to KCUR. The decision to end the mask mandate was proposed by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas Mayor Tyrone Garner who was sworn into office on Monday.

Some public health officials and experts reportedly expressed their concern about lifting the mask mandate at the moment as the new COVID variant Omicron continues to spread nationwide.

"We are seeing a dramatic rise in cases, not just in Wyandotte County, but across the metro. We are concerned," Van Liew said, according to the news outlet.

The first case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in an eastern Kansas resident on Thursday, according to KCUR.

"I think to myself: Is this really the time to stop wearing masks?" said Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer for Wyandotte County, according to the news outlet. "I think that answer is absolutely not."

Still, commissioners disagreed about the necessity of wearing masks. One of the commissioners who voted in favor of removing the mask mandate, Melissa Baynum, said that the mandate has been ineffective in keeping the number of COVID cases down.

"It's disturbing that even with our mandate that our numbers are up," Bynum said, according to KCUR. "I personally think that's because people are not paying attention to the mandate anymore."

Meanwhile, another commissioner who voted to approve the removal of the mandate, Mike Kane, said that people care less about the idea of wearing masks.

"When we look around, who is really doing it?" Kane said. "Who is performing? Who is wearing a mask like they're supposed to?"

The mask mandate is no longer required in Kansas City, Missouri except in schools. Meanwhile, people in Johnson County, Kansas are recommended to wear masks but are not required.

Newsweek reached out to Mayor Tyrone Garner and Wyandotte County medical experts for comment.

Kansas City Removes Mask Mandates
Kansas City, Kansas, removed mask mandates despite having less than half or the residents in fully vaccinated against COVID, according to Juliann Van Liew, the public health director for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. Here, people wear masks at an indoor mall in The Oculus in lower Manhattan on the day that a mask mandate went into effect in New York on December 13 in New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images