The Johnson County Commissioners voted on April 29 to allow the county’s mask mandate to expire at the end of the month by a 5-1 vote. Mask-wearing is still strongly recommended in public places, but businesses will no longer be required to enforce it.
The move to let the mandate expire is part of a movement that has been sweeping the nation as of late, with positive cases for COVID-19 plummeting and vaccination rates increasing at a steady level. Johnson County’s new case numbers have stayed below 200 per day since Feb. 27, while the number of deaths per day hasn’t reached double digits since Jan. 13 and hasn’t been above three per day since March 8.
The county’s herd immunity numbers are not where officials decided the benchmark to end the mandate should be, with only 30.9% of the population being fully vaccinated. The original goal was to have a 50% vaccination rate.
With Johnson County dropping its mask mandate, there will be only three counties in the state of Kansas to still have a mandate: neighboring Douglas and Wyandotte counties along with Riley County, which plays host to Kansas State University.
The decision comes in tandem with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that it is now safe for fully vaccinated people to participate in outdoor activities without needing a mask. They do, however, still recommend wearing masks in crowded events such as sports games or concerts where unvaccinated people could be present.
County resistance to Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide mask mandate started almost immediately after it took effect on July 5, 2020 with more than 90 of the state’s 105 counties rejecting her plan right off the bat, including Kansas’ second most populous county, Sedgwick. The number of counties to abandon their mask mandates has slowly been climbing since then. Additionally, 25 states have lifted their mask mandates with COVID-19 cases continually declining.