Fully vaccinated Johnson County residents can drop masks in most situations — what you need to know

Shawnee Mission masks

Johnson County has adopted the CDC's revised guidance that now says fully vaccinated people can go maskless in most situations. Still, masks will still be required in some settings, including inside buildings in Shawnee Mission School District, above, because most students are not yet fully vaccinated. File photo.

Note: The Shawnee Mission Post is making much of its local coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here).

It’s the day many of us had been waiting for.

On Thursday, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment adopted new guidance issued earlier in the day by the CDC that says fully vaccinated individuals can go without masks in most situations.

That includes both indoor and outdoor places.

There are only a few exceptions to this new guidance:

  • Health care settings
  • Correctional facilities
  • Group and homeless shelters
  • Public transportation, including airplanes, buses and trains

“This is what we have been working toward,” county health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., said in a statement Thursday. “The science is clear – the vaccines are working. We hope everyone age 12 and older takes advantage of this important tool to stay safe and end the pandemic. Getting vaccinated protects you, it protects others, and it lets us begin to return to normal.”

Johnson County, in partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital, has begun vaccinating adolescents ages 12 to 15, following the FDA’s approval for emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Friday, JCHDE’s vaccine dashboard said about 43% of Johnson County residents have been fully vaccinated.

Here are a few questions you may still have about wearing masks going forward:

What if I haven’t been vaccinated?

  • The CDC guidance adopted by JCDHE says that if you have not been fully vaccinated you should still wear a mask in public.
  • “Fully vaccinated” means two weeks after your second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

Can businesses still ask that I wear a mask while I’m inside? 

  • Yes, individual businesses and organizations are still free to make their own masking rules for patrons and employees, according to the CDC.
  • This means you should at least be prepared to wear a mask when going out in public.
  • For instance, officials with the Hy-Vee grocery store chain told the Post on Friday that they still plan to urge customers to wear masks and will require employees to do so inside their stores.
  • Local businesses like Transport Brewery in Shawnee, Sandhills Brewing in Mission and Duck Donuts in Leawood said they will still either encourage customers to wear masks or ask them to wear masks while not seated and will also require employees to still wear masks.

What about schools? Do kids and teachers still have to wear masks at school? 

  • On Thursday night, the Shawnee Mission School District emailed a message to parents saying the district will still continue to require masks in its buildings, in line with CDC guidance for schools, which did not change following Thursday’s announcement.
  • USD 232 in De Soto on Friday said the district also has no plans to change its current policy on masks.
  • NPR reports on why the latest CDC guidance is unlikely to change many schools’ masking policies for this current school year.
  • Most children younger than 16 have not been fully vaccinated, and many older kids have started getting their shots but may not yet be fully vaccinated by the time this current school year ends.

What are city governments doing in regards to masking rules? 

  • Many cities had already dropped mask requirements inside their municipal spaces following the expiration of the county’s public health order on May 1, though many have continued recommending masks be worn in public.
  • On Friday, the city of Merriam told the Post it would still “strongly recommend” masks be worn in public buildings, following guidance from JCDHE.
  • Likewise, local law enforcement agencies have said they are prepared to mediate mask disputes, but several local police departments told the Shawnee Mission Post that they hoped to try to educate residents about current guidance and resolve conflicts before needing to make arrests or pressing charges.