Douglas County Commission to allow mask mandate to expire

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Article updated at 6:12, 11:23 p.m. Wednesday:

As new COVID-19 cases have continued to drop in Douglas County, commissioners on Wednesday evening were set to let a countywide mask mandate expire.

An emergency health order with a countywide mask mandate went into effect Jan. 7 as the county was seeing a rolling 14-day average of new cases nearly double previous pandemic spikes. That number eventually reached more than four times the previous record from November 2020, but new cases began to drop within two weeks of the mandate going into effect.


Early last month, the commission had considered an option of a loosened mandate that would have required masks only for indoor gatherings where more than 500 people were present. Instead, they opted to extend the mandate until Wednesday, March 2.

“I will go ahead and mention that we do not have health orders on our agenda for today. There are no further recommendations from our health officers, and our current health orders are set to expire by midnight this evening,” Commission Chair Shannon Reid said as she opened the meeting.

Commissioners then heard from five in-person public commenters speaking against the mask mandate. One online commenter said he didn’t think the time was right to lift the mandate, and he would like to see it extended for at least another month.

Wednesday statistics from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health showed that the rolling 14-day average number of new cases had dropped to the lowest point since the first week of December, about 25 new cases per day.

Click here to see the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence, the Lawrence school district, and Douglas County on the Times’ dashboard.

The University of Kansas did not wait long to announce a change to the campus mask policy.

Effective at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 3, masks will no longer be required in most non-classroom settings, such as libraries, dining halls, research labs, hallways, athletic facilities, offices, meeting rooms and other similar areas. Masks will still be required in KU classrooms, in the Watkins Health Center, childcare facilities and on campus buses, according to an updated answer on the Protect KU FAQ page.

Julie Boyle, spokesperson for the Lawrence school district, said via email Wednesday evening that “The district will consider any information learned from tonight’s county commission meeting along with the updated guidance from the CDC and COVID-19 transmission data tracked by Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health. If the administration determines that changes to district mitigation strategies are appropriate, we will share that information with staff, school families, and the media.”

Update, 11:23 p.m. Wednesday, March 2:

The updated information on KU’s mask policy has disappeared from the FAQ website, as the University Daily Kansan reported Wednesday evening. It was unclear why.

Here’s a screenshot of the FAQ before the mask information disappeared.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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