Roeland Park businesses will get some help enforcing city mask order — here’s how

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Roeland Park will spend up to $1,000 to print signs for business owners in the city to better notify customers to wear face masks indoors in the city.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved authorizing the expense in an amendment to its Aug. 23 face mask resolution, which took effect Aug. 24 and is currently set to expire Oct. 19.

Roeland Park became the second Johnson County city to enact a citywide mask mandate, following Prairie Village, which instituted a similar measure that took effect Aug. 24.

Roeland Park will pay for the signs from its general fund. The city will seek to reimburse the expense from federal pandemic relief funds, Mayor Mike Kelly told the Shawnee Mission Post on Wednesday.

The council passed the amendment amid reports that the county and the Kansas City region remained high COVID-transmission areas.

According to council documents citing the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, 65% of county residents aged 12 and older had received at least a first COVID-19 vaccine as of Aug. 31, and 59.4% of eligible county residents were fully vaccinated. (Vaccination rates reported by the CDC are higher because they typically include data from residents who may have gotten vaccinated in other states.)

Councilmembers Benjamin Dickens and Claudia McCormack were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Businesses’ reservations over enforcement

Ward 2 Councilmember Jennifer Hill said she wanted the city to take a “stronger stance” to encourage face mask compliance in stores. She said she had talked with managers of some businesses who expressed fear over enforcing the mask mandate with customers.

Some stores have masks on a table inside the front door, Hill said, but signs reminding customers to wear masks “are in obscure places that you can’t really see.”

“And when people walk in without wearing a mask, (the managers) aren’t saying anything,” she said. “Although we don’t want them to get engaged in a combat with people,” asking customers to wear a mask “would go far.”

Kelly said he supported more education using the city’s newsletter, website and social media about the need to wear masks.

Police officers have been visiting businesses in the city’s business district and elsewhere to provide education, and “more and more people are starting to wear them,” Police Sgt. Cory Honas said.

The city will give the new signs to the police department to give to businesses with instructions on how to properly display them.

City Administrator Keith Moody said he thought printing more easily visible, sturdier signs for businesses would cost “a couple of hundred dollars at most.”

He stressed the need to educate the public and said the city has had “very good participation” in multiple meetings with businesses.

Mask order details

The order requires masks for all people indoors in public places, including public transportation, and in crowded outdoor public places, with some exceptions.

Roeland Park’s Aug. 23 resolution recommends — but does not require — that people, with some exceptions, wear masks in indoor private settings and crowded outdoor private settings where close contact with people who might not be fully vaccinated is possible.

The city started complying last summer with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask mandate, which took effect July 3, 2020, and was extended multiple times before expiring earlier this year.

The city chose to issue a new resolution rather than an ordinance because it can implement a resolution immediately and it is temporary, which makes it “far more practical and expedient” than an ordinance, City Attorney Steve Mauer said at the council’s Aug. 23 meeting.

An ordinance permanently changes city law and becomes effective only after publication.

The resolution imposes no monetary fine for violators, and the city will emphasize education over enforcement, the resolution states.

But if a property owner sees someone not wearing a mask and refusing to wear one or leave the premises, the owner may call the Roeland Park Police Department, which is authorized to remove the person from the premises.

The city can then charge the person with trespassing, a violation of existing city code, Mauer said.

Exemptions from the mask resolution are as follows:

  • Children younger than age 4
  • People with health conditions that prohibit wearing face mask
  • People who struggle to breathe or are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a mask without help
  • People seated at a restaurant or other business providing food or drink while eating or drinking
  • People consuming food or drink for religious reasons
  • People participating in religious or other services involving the nose or face that require temporary mask removal
  • Athletes playing organized sports while maintaining a 6-foot distance from others or those engaged in athletics or other activities inside school buildings
  • Deaf or hard-of-hearing people when communication requires the ability to see the mouth
  • People alone in a separate room, office or other indoors space
  • People at any gathering with confirmation that attendees are fully vaccinated
  • People engaged in any lawful activity when law prohibits wearing a face covering

About the author

Jerry LaMartina
Jerry LaMartina

Jerry LaMartina is a freelance journalist who contributes to the Johnson County Post and other Kansas City-area publications. He can be reached at lamartina.jerry@gmail.com.