Douglas County Commission to consider monthlong mask mandate for children 2 to 11

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The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider a new mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases in the population group not yet eligible to receive a vaccination for the respiratory virus: children ages 2 to 11.

The mandate — should commissioners Shannon Portillo, Shannon Reid and Patrick Kelly ultimately choose to implement it — will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and will remain in effect through at least Sep. 22, according to the commission’s agenda information.


According to the proposed text of the order, children ages 2 to 11 will be required to wear masks in the following settings:

  • Inside, or in line to enter, any indoor public space
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings, including but not limited to:
    • A hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank (unless directed otherwise by an employee or healthcare provider)
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or while in a taxi, private car service, school bus, or ride-sharing vehicle

Exceptions to the order do apply, including those with a medical condition, mental health condition, or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, though no specific examples are cited. Children in the 2-to-11 age group who are deaf or hard of hearing (or communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing) where the need to see a mouth is essential for communication are also exempt from the order.

Other exemptions, as with past mask mandates that applied to the entire Douglas County community, include when the child is engaged in a religious service or ceremony or when eating and drinking in a restaurant.

The full text of the proposed order can be found here.

The order does not appear to give parents the choice on whether or not their children must wear a mask when in the aforementioned public spaces.

Children ages 12 and older are currently eligible to receive one of the three COVID-19 vaccines on the marketplace — the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — but the two-dose Moderna shot and the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine remain authorized for use only in those 18 or older.

This leaves children in the 2 to 11 age range particularly vulnerable to the respiratory virus, especially given the recent rise of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19, health officials both in Douglas County and across the country have argued.

Recent national media reports indicate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to authorize the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11 by the end of September, around the same time at which the regulatory agency is also expected to approve the two vaccines for full use in the general population.

An Emergency Use Authorization is a tool the FDA uses in pressing public health situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, to authorize treatments such as vaccines based on the best available data that a treatment is safe and effective. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines obtained EUAs in late 2020 for use in patients 18 years of age and older, and in May, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for emergency use in those at least 12 years old.

Though a full FDA approval does amount to a higher degree of clearance than an EUA, both designations indicate that treatments — such as vaccines — have been through rigorous clinical trials and met necessary safety standards before being distributed to the general public.

The Douglas County Commission’s regular meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Anyone wishing to provide public comment can do so in person during the meeting at the Douglas County Courthouse or on Zoom. Masks are required inside all county buildings for anyone ages 2 and up.

The full agenda is available at this link.

See the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence and Douglas County on The Lawrence Times’ stat dashboard at this link.

Find out where you can get the free COVID-19 vaccine at this link.


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