Leawood is latest Johnson County city to decide against new mask mandate — Here’s the reasoning

Johnson County COVID-19

The Leawood City Council on Tuesday discussed whether to enact a mask mandate, ultimately deciding against enforcing one due to logistical and enforcement concerns. Above, two people wear masks while walking in Leawod's Park Place shopping center. File image.

After an impromptu and, at times, spirited conversation this week, the Leawood City Council unanimously chose to not initiate a new mask mandate for the time being.

Though the topic was not on the council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting, Leawood Fire Chief Colin Fitzgerald said it came up after several residents had reached out to city staff about the issue.

Leawood’s decision to not enact a new mandate was made on the same day that mask orders went into effect in four other Johnson County cities in the wake of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

The orders in Fairway, Mission, Prairie Village and Roeland Park require masks in most publicly accessible places with some exceptions. Individual violators can be fined $25.

All those cities’ orders will remain in place for at least the next month.

In Leawood’s case, Fitzgerald said the council decided to not institute a mandate due to logistical concerns.

“[The councilmembers’] main concern with any kind of a mandate is how do you enforce it?” Fitzgerald said. “Because the police department’s already busy, how do you actually make sure people do it?”

Additionally, he said, the council typically looks to the county officials and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment for guidance on these type of issues.

Since the county does not currently have a countywide mask mandate in place, the city council decided it would be best to wait to start their own, at least for now.

Similar concerns led city officials in Lenexa this week to also turn down the idea of city mask mandate there. 

Rather than putting a mask mandate to a vote, Leawood councilmembers decided to send a release out with some precautions they highly recommend residents take in order to limit the further spread of COVID-19.

These precautions include:

  • obtaining all eligible vaccination doses and booster shots,
  • wearing a well-fitting mask when around other people not in your immediate family,
  • maintaining social distancing of at six feet when possible,
  • avoiding crowds,
  • washing your hands frequently,
  • getting tested if exposed or experiencing symptoms
  • and following suggested quarantine and isolation guidelines after testing positive, developing symptoms or being exposed.

The city council says they will address the subject once more at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7.

“At that meeting, we’ll see how things have progressed. If whether we’re seeing higher levels, lower levels. If we need to try and do something further,” Fitzgerald said.