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New CDC Guidance Welcome News For Kansans, But Don't Ditch Your Masks Yet

Fernando Salazar
Wichita Journalism Collaborative

Kansas officials say the state will follow new federal guidance that says people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or socially distance.

But don’t get rid of your masks just yet.

There are exceptions to the guidelines handed down this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It still recommends wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

Private businesses — such as Dillons — and employers can still adopt and enforce their own face-covering rules. So can Kansas counties, although only two counties — Douglas and Wyandotte — still have mask mandates in effect. Sedgwick County dropped its mask requirement in March.

The City of Wichita says it will still require masks in its facilities, including City Hall. The city says it also will continue to follow social distancing guidelines while it further evaluates the CDC’s order.

Still, the guidelines from the CDC are a step forward, removing something people have learned to deal with since last spring.

“This announcement is welcome news, and a testament to the sacrifices Kansans have made over the last year,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement. “I can think of no better reason for all Kansans to get vaccinated. The sooner we are vaccinated — the sooner we get back to normal.”

Nearly 40% of all Kansans are vaccinated, although the demand for the vaccine has fallen in recent weeks. The state opened up vaccinations this week to all children 12 and older.

Kelly said Kansans who feel more comfortable wearing a mask should continue to do so.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.