Northern Johnson County cities agree to comply with face mask mandate; local police weigh in on enforcement

Cities in northern Johnson County have agreed to comply with state and countywide orders that require face masks. Starting Friday, July 3, Kansans must wear a face mask in public indoor and outdoor spaces when 6 feet of distancing cannot be maintained. Photo credit Elvert Barnes. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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The bigger cities of northern Johnson County have all publicly agreed to adhere to Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide mandate requiring face masks to be worn in public.

Starting Friday, July 3, Kansans must wear a face mask in public indoor and outdoor spaces when 6 feet of distancing cannot be maintained. There are exceptions for Kansans who have medical conditions or mental health disabilities, Kansans younger than 5 and athletes in training.

Following the governor’s order Thursday, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners also voted 4-2 to adhere to the statewide mandate. The orders come as local positive cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.

Johnson County government is asking residents to refrain from calling 911 if they seek enforcement of the mask order. Instead, residents can call the consumer fraud hotline at the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office: 913-715-3003.

Here’s a look at how each city has responded to the mandate and what it means in terms of enforceability.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:47 p.m. Tuesday, July 7 to include the Leawood Police Department’s statement on the mask mandate. The police departments for Overland Park and Shawnee have not yet responded to the Shawnee Mission Post’s inquiry on the face mask mandate. This story will be updated as new information comes in.)

Fairway

The Fairway Police Department briefly noted in an announcement Thursday that the mask requirement would be in effect starting Friday.

Leawood

In a statement provided to residents via the Nextdoor social media platform on Thursday afternoon, Police Chief Troy Rettig said any penalty of the mask order is a civil action and outside of the role of the Leawood Police Department. He said the police department will not respond to calls or complaints about individuals not wearing masks in public, but the department will respond to criminal trespassing complaints from businesses requiring patrons to wear a mask. Below is a copy of his complete statement:

“Governor Kelly’s Executive Order #20-52 requiring face masks or coverings in public goes into effect at 12:01 AM on July 3rd. Her order provides direction on when and where masks should be worn. I encourage everyone to review these orders for further information. https://governor.kansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/20200702093130003.pdf Any penalty for violation of this order is a civil action and outside of the role of our police department. The police department will not be responding to calls or complaints on individuals not wearing masks in public. However, we will respond to criminal trespassing complaints when: • a business owner or manager requires patrons to wear a mask • requests assistance in removing a patron who refuses to wear a mask and also refuses to leave upon request. Johnson County has asked for calls regarding businesses not complying with these orders be referred to this number – 913-715 -3003. I encourage everyone to stay safe and be respectful to one another in these challenging times.”

Lenexa

Lenexa is adhering to the statewide and countywide mask mandate.

Danny Chavez, public information officer for the Lenexa Police Department, said the department will not be responding to calls or taking reports about violations of the mask wearing order, following guidance from the Kansas Attorney General.

“The mask order constitutes a civil violation, not a criminal one. As such, violations should be reported to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office,” Chavez said.

Johnson County government is asking residents to refrain from calling 911 if they seek enforcement of the mask order. Photo via Lenexa Police Department.

Here are some tips from Lenexa for those concerned about someone not wearing a mask in public:

  • If you’re in a shop, business or other public space: Ask management staff to speak to the customer.
  • If a customer at a business you represent refuses to wear a mask: This could constitute as trespassing. Call the Lenexa Police Department’s non-emergency line at 913-477-7301.
  • If you’re in another public place: Requests for enforcement of the order should be directed to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office at 913-715-3003.
Here are some tips for visiting Lenexa facilities and services:
  • Lenexa City Hall and other city offices: Do wear a mask when in these spaces.
  • Parks and trails: You do not need to wear a mask when you are outdoors and able to maintain a 6-foot distance between others with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.
  • Lenexa Rec Center, Community Center, Senior Center, Indian Trails Aquatic Center, Thompson Barn, Legler Barn: You do need to wear a mask in non-workout areas of Parks & Recreation facilities. If you expect to participate in strenuous activity that could result in difficulty breathing while wearing a mask, we encourage you to wear a mask until you reach your location of exercise and after the exercise is complete. No masks are allowed to be worn in a pool.
  • Parks & Recreation programs: We strongly encourage you to wear masks while participating in activities where a mask is not restrictive to your breathing and your are comfortable performing the activity with it on. If you’re signed up for a program, the instructor or organizer will reach out to you with relevant requirements.
  • Lenexa Farmers Market: We strongly encourage that you wear a face covering when shopping at the Farmers Market.
  • Lenexa Public Market: Do wear a mask when you’re walking through the market, shopping, ordering at a merchant’s stall or attending a class. You do not need to wear a mask when seated at a table eating or drinking.

Those who visit the Lenexa Rec Center are required to wear masks in the building, except during strenuous exercising. Patrons are encouraged to wear a mask while participating in activities if they feel comfortable to do so. However, masks are prohibited while in the pool. Rec Center staff will offer disposable masks for those who need one.

Merriam

Merriam will follow guidelines from the state executive order and the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

Jenna Gant, communications and public engagement manager, said residents will need to wear masks when they visit Merriam City Hall or other city facilities.

“Merriam police officers will inform and educate those who are not wearing masks as required in the executive order,” Gant said.

Mission

Mission is requiring residents to follow the statewide mask mandate.

Emily Randel, assistant to the city administrator, said Johnson County will handle enforcement as a civil issue, not a criminal issue.

Mission city leaders have scheduled a virtual special meeting for Monday to discuss the mask requirement.

Overland Park

Overland Park will follow both orders from the state and Johnson County on face masks.

“We will be abiding by the orders, which I believe are identical,” said Sean Reilly, communications manager.

Prairie Village

Prairie Village is complying with the statewide order. In response, the city has ordered a supply of single-use masks for local businesses to give to customers without their own masks.

The Prairie Village Police Department will also offer single-use masks for individual community members who need one. The department announced they plan to enforce the order fully, but will ask for voluntary compliance first.

“We understand there will be complaints on people not wearing masks, and we want to provide some guidance to our community,” a release said. “…we will be focusing our education efforts on people not wearing face coverings in indoor spaces or large outdoor gatherings.”

The cities of Prairie Village and Roeland Park have ordered masks to distribute to residents and businesses to assist with compliance.

People must cover their mouths and noses when they are:

  • In a public space indoors.
  • Standing in a line that goes into an indoor public space.
  • Receiving healthcare service at clinics, laboratories and blood banks.
  • Utilizing public transportation, private car services or ride-shares.
  • Where social distancing is not possible in outdoor spaces.
  • Working at, frequenting or managing a business that serves the public such as retail, restaurants or other establishments that have people walking through.

Roeland Park

Roeland Park is complying with the statewide mask mandate. The city has ordered 10,000 face masks and will provide them to residents and businesses to assist them with compliance. The police department will be involved with dispersing the masks.

In a previous report, Mayor Mike Kelly said the expertise of public health professionals has guided the city’s actions in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Masks are a simple, proactive step we can take to keep our economy working, get our children back in school and stem this rising tide of positive COVID-19 cases,” Mayor Mike Kelly said. “Wearing a mask is not only safe but is necessary to avoid another shutdown.”

Shawnee

Shawnee is complying with the statewide mask mandate. The city will require staff and residents to wear face masks while visiting Shawnee City Hall and city facilities including the Shawnee Civic Centre and Shawnee Town.

The mask mandate also applies to any outdoor gathering spaces where close proximity to others is difficult to avoid.

Tonya Lecuru, deputy director of parks and recreation, said there are exceptions to the masks, such as sporting events; for instance, in a baseball game, players aren’t expected to wear masks while on the field, but must wear masks in the dugout and/or when in close proximity with other players, coaches or spectators.

“We’re just making sure that the facilities and our programs can be maintained and offered in a way that’s safe to the public,” Lecuru said. “Face masks are just another part of making sure everyone stays safe. We’re trying to make sure we understand the guidelines as they are and that we’re enforcing them in a way so that people can still enjoy the facilities and participate.”

Lecuru said residents are not required to wear masks while enjoying the parks and trails. The mandate only applies to gathering areas where residents are unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, such as restrooms, drinking fountains or in seating areas at the ballparks.

Westwood

Westwood will follow the statewide order and assist with enforcement of face coverings. Residents who fail to comply could be considered as trespassing.

Mayor David Waters said all city employees and facilities will comply with the requirement, and Westwood will enforce the mandate “through all appropriate means,” including referring complaints to the District Attorney’s Office and general police enforcement.

Below is his complete statement:

“The City of Westwood will, of course, help in the implementation of the Governor’s Executive Order requiring the wearing of face coverings, and the City is thankful that the Board of County Commissioners has further supported its implementation.  All City employees and facilities will be in compliance with this requirement.  The City will enforce the requirement through all appropriate means, including reference to the District Attorney, if necessary, and through general police enforcement, such as trespassing, if there should be individuals that refuse to comply with the instructions of our local businesses.  Fortunately, our residents and businesses continue to lead by example, and we do not anticipate any issues with enforcement.

It is imperative that our community slow the spread of COVID-19.  As home to two major health and life-saving institutions–KU Cancer Center and Midwest Transplant Network–the City of Westwood supports and appreciates the guidance that our expert health officials provide.  We also know how important it is that our elementary school, Westwood View, have the opportunity to open this fall for the five cities which it serves.  Only by reducing the spread of COVID-19 will that be able to happen.

The City’s elected officials and our Police Department will continue to work with our health experts and with our colleagues in neighboring cities on best practices for ending (or at least greatly reducing) this pandemic in our communities, including enforcement of face mask requirements.  To our residents and businesses, please:  Wear Your Mask.”