Gov. Laura Kelly announced she would new executive order later this week requiring most Kansans wear masks in public spaces during a Monday afternoon press briefing. The order, which will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, has not yet been released to the public in its entirety.
Most Kansans will have to wear masks in stores, shops, restaurants and places where people cannot maintain a 6-foot distance. More details about the ordinance will be released on Thursday.
"If they care about keeping the businesses in their district open, they won't fight this one," Kelly told reporters.
Local counties will have the authority to enforce the mandate. They may also choose to override the mandate by a vote of the county's governing body.
Interim Police Chief Ed Owens said Monday night that the Emporia Police Department was not ready to make any comments on how such a mandate might be enforced.
"I'm going to wait until I see more information," Owens told The Emporia Gazette in a phone call.
Kansas is one of several states in the US that have seen an increase in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks. As of Monday, Kansas had reached 14,443 total COVID-19 cases and 270 deaths, with a 905 increase since Friday of last week.
Locally, Lyon County included four new cases of COVID-19 and six new recoveries in its Monday data report. That brings the county’s overall cases to 497, with 22 active patients and 467 recoveries on record.
Seven patients have died and three are currently hospitalized.
Lyon County Health Officer Renee Hively said, from a public health perspective, she endorsed the governor's directive.
"I do endorse the governor's position," she said. "If we do want to move forward and do the things we want to do, we're going to have to make sacrifices — like wear a mask."
Hively said she knew only as much about the order as the rest of the population at this point, and was planning to review the mandate once information came down to Lyon County Public Health. She said while currently local numbers may look good, with only 22 active cases, it was important to remain vigilant and mindful of possible community spread.
"Currently, our numbers look good," Hively said. "They are trending down for Lyon County, but as you can see, with all of the kids' sporting events and tournaments that have been going on, we are starting to see clusters within that population."
California. Washington and North Carolina have also instituted mask ordinances in recent weeks. Florida and Texas have shut down bars after large spikes in COVID-19 cases, according to a report by the Kansas News Service.
Kansas City, Missouri, had already instituted a mask ordinance which began Monday. Wyandotte County's mask ordinance was set to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday and Douglas County's mandate starts Wednesday.
The governor said Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office will enforce the statewide mandate.
The State Finance Council will review the order, though they cannot revoke it. Only the full Legislature has the ability to do that with a "concurrent resolution" Kelly's office said.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:52 p.m. Monday to include more information and quotes from local health officials and law enforcement.