Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, said he hopes Kansas residents don’t look for ways to skirt a new mask order from Gov. Laura Kelly, but will comply with it.
The order is scheduled to go into effect on Friday, July 3.
Dr. Norman and doctors at the University of Kansas Health System news conference Wednesday morning discussed the new order.
Kansas has had hundreds of new COVID-19 cases this week, and currently has about 2,000 new cases every week.
The state reported a cumulative total of 14,990 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday morning, an increase of 547 cases since Monday. There were two additional deaths, for a cumulative total of 272.
Wyandotte County reported 2,312 cumulative total cases at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and cumulative 83 deaths. It was an increase of 80 cases since Tuesday and one more death.
The University of Kansas Health System reported 16 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Wednesday morning, with three on ventilators. There was one less COVID-19 patient in the hospital since Tuesday, and one more patient on a ventilator. There had been some admissions and some discharges.
Discussing the new state mask order, Dr. Norman said enforcement of the state’s order is planned locally, with local municipalities and counties.
“Ideally people will comply with this willingly,” Dr. Norman said. “I think it’ll be a real struggle, honestly.”
With the legislature limiting the governor’s authority recently, the order will have to be approved by the State Finance Council, a group of legislative leaders meeting on Thursday.
He said they will have to wait until Thursday to see what the details of the governor’s executive order on masks will look like.
In the meantime, some parts of Kansas, including Wyandotte County, are already under a local mask order. The order here went into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Residents are required to wear masks in public places. They also are required to continue social distancing and other measures such as washing their hands.
Johnson County currently doesn’t have a local mask ordinance, but the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to vote on whether to have a mask ordinance on Thursday, according to Dr. Joseph Lemaster, Johnson County health officer.
He said he supports mask-wearing and the Johnson County Health Department has been urging its residents to wear masks all along. Wearing masks of any sort, including homemade, will dramatically reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the population, he said.
There currently are petitions online urging Johnson County to adopt a mask ordinance.
Tracey Osborn Oltjen, president of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, said at the news conference that about 70 percent of the businesses there already require masks to be worn.
Dr. Norman said it is frustrating to public health leaders when residents don’t take the advice seriously to wear masks. Part of the problem has been inconsistent messaging, he said. Early, health officials were trying to preserve masks for first-responders and front-line workers and so did not advocate for masks.
Some people now are attacking the idea of wearing masks, when in reality what they are saying is the magnitude of the response is in excess to the risk to them, he said. There is a feeling on the part of some Kansas residents, perhaps those without many cases in their counties, that it is not a risk to them.
Dr. Norman said he has pointed out to people that those who work in nursing homes and meatpacking plants where there are outbreaks, then go home, and the disease could spread.
While the COVID-19 numbers of new cases in Kansas now are more among the 20 to 40-year-old groups, and there is less hospitalization, it is community spread, and it won’t remain in that age group long, he said.
“We cannot let our guard down,” he said.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection control at the University of Kansas Health System, said masks act as a barrier, in case people are infected and do not know it. They reduce the spread of the disease to vulnerable and other populations, he said.
At the news conference, a video from Florida Atlantic University was shown that illustrated how droplets spread from a cough.
The droplets can spread six feet or more without any mask. The distance was much reduced with a mask.
A bandana is better than no mask at all. A stitched, pleated cotton mask worked better than a bandana for blocking droplets, Dr. Hawkinson said.
Masks do not reduce your oxygen, and surgeons have been using them for hours at a time, for years, and they are safe, he said. The virus has already been found in mountainous areas as well as in rural areas, he said.
“You are doing this for other people, so you don’t spread it to other people,” Dr. Hawkinson said.
The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/558459555038938.
The Wyandotte County mask order is at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/06272020LocalHealthOfficerOrderRegardingMasks.pdf.
A news release on the Wyandotte County mask order is at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Health-Department/Documents/Communicable%20Disease/COVID19/06272020PressReleaseLHORequiresPublicToWearMasks.pdf.
The governor’s news release on mask-wearing is at https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-laura-kelly-announces-masks-must-be-worn-statewide/.
Wyandotte County now has posted an application for nonprofits, government agencies, school districts and businesses in Wyandotte County that want to apply for CARES Act funding. The web address is https://us.openforms.com/Form/6273fe80-8bba-4c18-b4e7-e551096d8a83.
For information on how to make an easy no-sew mask, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/how-to-make-a-no-sew-cloth-mask/.
For more information about COVID-19 testing, including other sites, visit https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19. Residents also may call 3-1-1 for more information about testing.
The state’s COVID-19 test page is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/280/COVID-19-Testing.
Residents may visit the UG COVID-19 website at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information or call 311 for more information.
Wyandotte County is currently under Phase 3. See covid.ks.gov.
The state plan’s frequently asked questions page is at https://covid.ks.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Reopening-FAQ_5.19.2020_Final.pdf.
The CDC’s COVID-19 web page is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.