Kansas governor issues new but doomed statewide mask policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday issued an order aimed at encouraging Kansas counties to keep COVID-19 mask mandates, but the policy seemed unlikely to survive the day.

Kelly‘s order requires people to wear masks in indoor businesses and public spaces and outdoors when they can’t socially distance. State law gives counties the final say, but her order means that their elected county commissions must take a specific vote to set less restrictive rules or opt out.

The governor said in a statement that the order would ensure that past efforts to check the virus “will not have been wasted.”

A Kansas law that took effect last week gives eight top legislators the power to revoke an order issued by the governor because of a pandemic or other emergency. Those lawmakers planned to meet Thursday afternoon, and the six Republicans in the group have signaled that they will revoke the mask policy.

Kelly issued a similar mask policy in November, but the new law required the governor to reissue it after Wednesday.

Republicans in both chambers approved resolutions this week directing legislative leaders to rescind a statewide mask policy. GOP lawmakers argue it’s unnecessary, given a sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases this winter.

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