The order, effective Friday, is almost certain to spark a backlash in the conservative state. Local leaders will confront a tough choice over whether they will try to overturn the directive — an option counties appear to have under new state law that stripped the governor of some of her emergency authority during the pandemic.
“This doesn’t change where you can go or what you can do. It just means that you’re around other people, you must wear a mask,” Kelly said during a news conference.
The Democratic governor acknowledged that she expects “some who will be outraged” by the mandate. But she said even Republican leaders elsewhere in the nation have spoken out about the value of masks.
As of Monday, 14,443 people have tested positive for the virus in Kansas. Kelly emphasized the massive influx of more than 900 new cases over the weekend along with six deaths, bringing the total to 270.
A text of the order wasn’t immediately available, but Kelly said details would be released on Thursday, the day before the requirement goes into effect. She said making the announcement now would give Kansans time to acquire masks. The order will eventually be reviewed by the State Finance Council, a panel made up of top Republican and Democratic lawmakers and chaired by Kelly.
The statewide mandate comes as counties have begun to wrestle with whether to impose their own local mask requirements. A mask order was already set to go into effect in Wyandotte County, and Douglas County announced one just hours before Kelly.