Douglas County health department to recommend removing local mask mandate at Wednesday meeting

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Local public health officials will recommend later this week that Douglas County remove its public health order, which includes a mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health said Monday that it will recommend the Douglas County Commission remove a current local health order that requires the wearing of masks in public spaces — though it will continue to strongly recommend that residents take precautions to slow the spread of the respiratory virus, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated.

“Even though we believe a health order is not currently necessary, we recognize the complexities of implementing the CDC guidance, including challenges of telling if someone is fully vaccinated,” Dr. Thomas Marcellino, Douglas County’s health officer, said in a statement. “We strongly recommend people continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces and that businesses and organizations continue to utilize spacing and distancing between parties because these measures have been working well in our community.”

Marcellino cited Douglas County’s continually falling COVID-19 case numbers as the impetus for eliminating the mask mandate in favor of strong recommendation of continued public health guidelines. A document in the county commission’s meeting agenda lists all the recommendations for restaurants/bars, parks and recreation, and libraries.

The move also comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released new guidance stating that those who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 (meaning two weeks out from the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shots or from the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine) no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

Gov. Laura Kelly quickly adopted the new federal guidance, though Douglas County was one of a select few counties that still had mask mandates in place.

The current local public health order, which Douglas County commissioners will review at a 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday, includes a mask mandate for anyone older than 5 in indoor public spaces or outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible. It also includes a 50% capacity restriction on indoor businesses and most public venues, though it allows businesses and venues to opt out of the occupancy restrictions with written notice and by posting signage at the entrance.

As of the health department’s Monday afternoon’s update on COVID-19 cases in Douglas County, there had been eight new cases reported to LDCPH since Friday, and there were 139 active cases.

The county commission will meet virtually for a 4 p.m. work session and 5:30 p.m. regular meeting on Wednesday. Find the link to attend via Zoom here. The full meeting agenda is available here.

Written public comments can be emailed to Robin Crabtree,, no later than 24 hours ahead of the meeting start time, or dropped in the county’s information dropbox in the south parking lot adjacent to the courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To provide comment remotely during the meeting, use the “Raise your hand” function on Zoom.

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