Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, issued an executive order on Thursday mandating the use of face masks or coverings in public beginning Friday in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
“This is a simple, proactive step we can take to keep Kansans at work, get our kids back to school, and keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy,” Kelly said in a statement. “Wearing a mask is not only safe—but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown.”
The governor added: “Remember—my mask protects you, and your mask protects me. We’re all in this together.”
Under the order, Kelly has mandated that Kansans must wear masks in stores and shops, restaurants, and in any situation in which social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained, including outside.
The order does not apply to children under the age of 6, the deaf, or people with medical conditions that make breathing through a mask difficult or that would prevent them from removing a mask without assistance.
Kelly said that the Kansas attorney general’s office will work closely with officials in her administration to ensure that the order complies with Kansas law.
The order comes after the state saw a surge in coronavirus cases following Kelly’s decision to lift statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings at the end of May.
“All of us want to return to our normal lives and routines,” Kelly said in a statement Thursday. ”Unfortunately, we have seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across our state and our country. We must act.”
Kansas has reported nearly 15,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic started in early March and had reported 272 COVID-19-related deaths as of Wednesday. Since Kelly lifted statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings immediately after Memorial Day, Kansas has had 5,653 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, which amounted to a 61 percent increase, and 84 deaths — a 45 percent jump.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.