Kansas City to make masks mandatory as virus cases rise

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Kansas City is making masks mandatory inside businesses and other places that are open to the public amid a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said Friday that starting Monday, visitors and employees must wear masks when 6 feet of separation isn’t feasible. The requirement will remain in place until at least July 12.

“Our country’s leading health and scientific experts have indicated in no uncertain terms that mask-wearing is the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Lucas said. “Case numbers in Kansas City continue to rise, and we are taking all steps we can to ensure public health and safety.”

Missouri reported that the state had 19,914 confirmed cases as of Friday, up 16% from a week ago. The state also reported 990 deaths, an increase of 4% from last week.

The actual number of people who have been infected is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can carry the virus and not feel sick.

Schools are considering how to hold classes in the fall as the pandemic endures. Surveys indicate that most educators and families want to return to in-school classes in the fall, after schools went online in the spring, Margie Vandeven, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Thursday.

Vandeven said the education department has not received many requests from local districts for an earlier start date, with most districts planning to start on Aug. 24.

The closing of school buildings highlighted a “great digital divide” in the state, with one in five students unable to take part in online learning, “making any kind of long-term remote learning a real challenge for those students,” she said.

Other consequences included unreported child abuse, less access to the food students usually receive from school, families struggling with child care, and damage to students’ social growth, she said.

“These implications are being considered along with continued risk of COVID-19, and therefore, school leaders and local health officials are working thoughtfully to reopen our schools,” Vandeven said.

Vandeven said school districts will decide whether to require masks at schools, class sizes and other guidance for reopening schools. Safety practices such as social distancing will be emphasized and school officials will be asked to make contract tracing as efficient as possible if a COVID-19 case is confirmed.

The state will waive attendance requirements that are used to calculate school funding, and will assure that schools are paid for in-school learning, online education or a combination of the two, she said.

The department wants schools to drop incentives for attendance, such as perfect attendance awards, to encourage students and staff to stay home if they are ill.

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