Johnson County doctors sign on to open letter urging mask requirement for elementary students

Shawnee Mission masks

Several Johnson County doctors are among the signatories on an open letter urging KC area school boards to mandate mask for elementary students, among other steps aimed at reducing the threat of COVID-19 at the start of the 2021-22 school year. File photo.

A group of 100 physicians practicing in the Kansas City area — including several who live and work in Johnson County — have penned an open letter to local school administrators and board members urging them to adopt the recommendations of public health officials in hopes of ensuring safe, in-person learning this fall as COVID-19 cases trend upward.

“We all agree that our students need to be in schools and that they need to be safe,” wrote the physicians. “Enacting these policies will give schools the best opportunity to do both while minimizing potential instructional interruptions due to illness, contact isolations, and quarantine.”

The doctors recommend that school boards “enact the following procedures and policies, at a minimum”:

  • Prioritize in-person learning.
  • Mandatory Universal Masking for all grades in which students are not yet eligible for vaccination. (Grades preschool – Grade 6)
  • Strongly encourage masking in unvaccinated students in grades where students are eligible for vaccination. (Grades 7 -12)
  • Strong contact tracing including following health department guidance for isolation and quarantine.

Why it matters: The letter comes days after the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment issued a new recommendation that school districts mandate that people who have not been vaccinated wear masks when indoors on district property.

That recommendation put three Johnson County districts at odds with public health officials. USD 232 (De Soto), Olathe and Blue Valley have already announced they will not be mandating masks for unvaccinated individuals this fall. The Shawnee Mission School District, whose board of education meets July 26, is the only large district in the county yet to adopt a policy on masks for the 2021-22 school year.

The physicians’ open letter is embedded in its entirety below:

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