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Nick’s Picks | Here’s the Latest on COVID-19 Mask and Vaccine Requirements in KC Classes Start This Week at Many Schools and Campuses

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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5 minute read

Most schools on the Kansas side of our metro have already headed back to class. This week marks the first day of school for Missouri-side districts.

Every major district now requires face masks. But that’s not stopping COVID-19 outbreaks. 

After opening last week, a totally masked-up Kansas City Kansas School District reported 82 COVID infections. Another 220 students and staff are now in quarantine. 

This week also marks the return to campus for thousands of area college students. The University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the University of Missouri and the University of Missouri-Kansas City are all starting classes today. 

Campus administrators are requiring that students wear masks. But vaccines are still optional. 

Only three local schools are requiring students get the shot: Rockhurst University, William Jewell and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

Not an Invisible Force Field

It’s becoming increasingly clear that getting the COVID vaccine does not provide you with an invisible force field that blocks every nasty thing from happening to you. 

There’s growing concern that vaccinated people may be more vulnerable to serious illness than previously thought.

It’s showing up in the numbers in Kansas City.

The University of Kansas Medical Center reports that on Wednesday of last week, 55 patients were being treated for COVID infections. 11 of those patients were fully vaccinated. 

Speaking of the numbers…

KU Hospital reports bed space is now so tight that they’re turning away 45 requests a day from other hospitals looking for more acute care for their patients.

And requests for beds aren’t coming from just hospitals in other parts of Kansas and Missouri, but from as far as Mississippi and New Mexico.

KU Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Stites says one patient from Salina, Kansas, ended up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Prairie Village Adopts Mask Mandate

You’re going to need a mask if you’re thinking about eating or shopping in Prairie Village this week. 

Johnson County voted against requiring masks in all public places, but that isn’t stopping the city of Prairie Village from requiring them. 

Prairie Village has voted to go it alone. A new indoor mask mandate goes into effect in the city on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s mask requirement was due to expire this week. Now, it has been extended. 

You will now be wearing masks in Kansas City through Sept. 23, though Mayor Quinton Lucas says he’s prepared to extend it beyond that time.

Will Arrowhead Require Vaccines?

This week, the Kansas City Chiefs return to the field at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since January.

The Chiefs take on the Minnesota Vikings in their final pre-season game on Friday night. 

You don’t have to be vaccinated if you want to be there. And masks are encouraged though not required.

But are those rules about to change?

The pressure is building on the Chiefs to adopt stricter COVID requirements. 

Last week, the Las Vegas Raiders became the first NFL team to implement a vaccine requirement for fans. 

And the New Orleans Saints announced all fans attending Caesars Superdome this season will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Chiefs flag waves in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Kansas City Chiefs host the Minnesota Vikings in the final pre-season game this Friday. (Courtesy | Kansas City Chiefs)

Kauffman Center Requires Vaccine

While Kansas City’s big sports venues have so far been reluctant to impose mask and vaccine requirements, the metro’s largest arts venue is moving forward with the metro’s strictest COVID policy.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts announced today that if you can’t show proof of vaccination, you will not be allowed to see any shows. 

More pointedly, the press release makes clear, “there will be no exceptions,” even for children under 12, who are currently not eligible for the vaccine.

In addition, Kauffman Center will require masks to be worn at all performances.

College Basketball Experience Reopens

Can you think of any big local attraction that has yet to reopen since the pandemic began?

I’ve found one: The College Basketball Experience at T-Mobile Center.

It has been shuttered since stay-at-home orders were first put in place in March of last year.

Now 18 months later, it’s finally reopening.

The interactive showcase of college hoops reopens its doors to visitors this Thursday with reduced admission prices and giveaways.

The Rep Returns

Despite continuing nervousness over COVID, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre says it’s moving forward with plans to start its new season this week. 

The Rep opens this Friday night at a less traditional venue: the south lawn of the National World War I Museum.

It’s a fitting space for its season opener. “Mary’s Wedding” is billed as “an epic story of love, hope, and survival” at the outbreak of World War I.

The show runs through Sept. 19.

COVID Cancelations

There will be no Prairie Village Jazz Festival this fall. For the second straight year, organizers are canceling the event amid growing concern over an uptick in COVID cases.

Even events later in the year are now dropping from the calendar. 

Country music duo Florida Georgia Line has canceled its Oct. 30 concert at Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center.

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 was named as the group’s decision to cancel the show.

Afghan Fallout

Congress returns to Washington today after an extended August recess, and Afghanistan is set to dominate the agenda. 

The first of several hearings is expected to get underway this week into the U.S. withdrawal and the chaotic scramble to evacuate Americans. 

Also get ready also for the political fight over accepting tens of thousands of Afghan refugees.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City says his office has already worked to resettle an Afghan translator to Missouri.

St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones says her city is ready to welcome at least 1,000 refugees.

And Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas posted a statement to his social media accounts saying he’s opening up Kansas City’s doors to displaced Afghans. 

But Lucas is already facing pushback. Scores of online commenters claim the move would only worsen the city’s affordable housing crisis. Others expressed health concerns over COVID-19.

COVID Liability Law Takes Effect

While it was approved by state lawmakers months ago, a new Missouri law blocking COVID lawsuits officially goes into effect this week.

The new law shields hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and churches from COVID lawsuits unless it can be proved they acted with “willful misconduct.”

Gov. Mike Parson says, “the last thing we need to do is punish anybody for trying to help in the middle of a crisis.”

Opponents, such as the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys and AARP Missouri, argued it would protect bad actors by granting them blanket immunity from liability lawsuits.

Shutdown at Local Ford Plant

Ford Motor Co. is shuttering its Kansas City Assembly Plant for a week due to the ongoing computer chip shortage. 

The facility in Claycomo builds the automaker’s best-selling F-150 pickup truck.

The shutdown begins today.

The temporary layoff is the third since April.

New Playground at MLK Park

Kansas City recently named a street after Martin Luther King Jr.  But did you know Kansas City already has a park named after the slain civil rights leader?

The small pocket of green space overlooks Brush Creek just east of The Paseo. For years there have been complaints of poor maintenance and a lack of amenities.

Now thanks to funding from a foundation set up by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a new interactive playground officially opens on the site this week.

A lot of money has been spent on making this a destination venue for kids with elaborate climbing nets, a hillside slide and even a musical instrument attraction. It will also feature display boards detailing Kansas City’s civil rights history.

An official ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for this Saturday at 2 p.m.

Extreme Habanero Heat’

The weather will be a hot topic this week. Literally. 

One local weather forecaster says prepare for “extreme habanero heat” 

While normal high temperatures at this time in August are in the upper 80s, we are expecting highs near 100 degrees across our metro. 

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory through Thursday night. The heat index is expected to climb to 106 degrees.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.


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