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Kansas governor issues new mask mandate

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued a new mask mandate on Wednesday set to go into effect the day before Thanksgiving, as Kansas and the rest of the country deals with surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. 

Kelly’s executive order will require face-coverings to be worn inside public spaces, health care facilities, in line for public transportation and outdoors where social distancing is not possible. The mandate goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25. 

Among those who are exempt from wearing a face covering are children under the age of five, people who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering and people who are eating and drinking at a restaurant, according to the order.

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The governor’s order is her second attempt to mandate mask-wearing statewide after most counties opted out of her earlier order in July. Republicans in particular criticized Kelly for a one-size-fits-all requirement.

Kelly said during a press conference Wednesday that “a one-size-fits-all approach can be difficult for some communities to navigate,” so she is giving counties a week to develop their own orders for face coverings. 

“We have reached a new stage in our fight with this virus and how we choose to respond could turn the tide for our businesses, our hospitals and our schools,” she said.

The governor’s office will also conduct a public awareness campaign advocating for mask use and other coronavirus precautions as hospitals face the threat of being overwhelmed in the state. 

Kansas recorded 5,853 new cases, 60 new deaths and 130 hospitalizations on Wednesday, according to state data. Metro area hospitals in the state and Kansas City area have more than 1,400 patients, compared to about 800 at the beginning of November, and some hospitals are resulting to putting COVID-19 patients in hallways and emergency rooms, the Kansas City Star reported

The Kansas Health Institute reported that as of Oct. 15, 24 of the state's 105 counties had mask orders, and 72 had no current coronavirus restrictions.