October 4, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. – in consultation with Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer, MPH and Emergency Management Coordinator Troy Schulte – is recommending a 30-day extension to the County’s public health order requiring mask-wearing in indoor public places for those 5 and older. A majority support of the Jackson County Legislature will be required to extend the order, which is currently set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 7.

Extending the health order would align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Jackson County Health Department and is supported by Jackson County public school district superintendents. The CDC classifies Jackson County and every adjacent county in both Missouri and Kansas as high transmission areas, except for Platte County, which is classified as having substantial community transmission.

“While the data shows we are slowly making progress to limit spread of the virus, we are not yet out of the woods,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. “Based on CDC guidance, which we have relied upon throughout the pandemic to implement our response, we must continue wearing masks indoors because they work. We’ve seen, for nearly 60 days, that mask-wearing has been an effective approach in protecting our neighbors from contracting the virus. We are hopeful that keeping the order in place for 30 more days will make our community safer, allowing us to reevaluate and move forward accordingly. I continue to encourage all those eligible to get vaccinated as we anxiously await vaccine authorization for children under 12.”

County Executive White and other county officials continue to meet regularly with Jackson County school superintendents to discuss the status of COVID-19 and a collective response. Following last week’s meeting, the area superintendents voiced their support for the county extending its mask mandate in light of high levels of COVID-related hospital admissions and associated staffing shortages. This strain on hospitals has limited the number of available ICU and non-ICU beds and forced facilities to enter periods of diversion.

“Due to the selfless efforts of the Jackson County community, we have made progress in reversing the trend of overall infections, hospitalizations and unnecessary deaths,” said Bridgette Shaffer, Jackson County Health Department Director. “Unfortunately, we continue to face a high level of community transmission and our hospitals are still under significant strain. We are recommending a 30-day extension of the county’s mask mandate at this time to further diminish COVID-19’s presence in our community and to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

The state of Missouri has continued to experience a sustained wave of new COVID-19 cases, fueled by low vaccination rates (currently 47.3% of residents are fully vaccinated), the spread of a more pervasive and virulent variant (Delta) and COVID-19 hot spots in Southeast Missouri.

Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as well as stressing the importance of mitigation measures to prevent virus spread. These measures include mask-wearing in public for everyone two years and older and staying at least six feet apart from people who don’t live in the same household.

“With the increase in positivity rates among adolescents, it only makes sense to wear a mask,” said Donald Kauerauf, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Everything I’ve read, everything I’ve seen, masks work.”

The latest data from the Jackson County Health Department shows:

  • The 7-day case rate per 100,000 remains high. On September 29, there were 137.38 total new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days. This remains higher than the upper threshold of “High” classification defined by the CDC.
  • The percent positive has decreased to 7.8%. While this currently meets the “substantial” level of community transmission designation, the CDC guidance determines overall transmission level by the higher of the two values – case rate and percent positivity.
  • The 7-day average of daily new cases declined in the Kansas City region from 548 new cases per day on August 24, 2021, to 537 new cases per day on September 28, 2021.
  • Vaccination coverage remains low in younger populations. So far, approximately 44% of individuals between 12-17 years old have completed their vaccination series. Approximately 47% of all Eastern Jackson County residents are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. This is especially important as the Jackson County Health Department reports that the highest case rates in September were in those ages 10-14, followed by ages 5-9.

The health department’s supporting report for a 30-day extension of the health order is attached. If an extension is approved by a majority of the Legislature, the health order would remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, November 6.