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Nick’s Picks | COVID-19 Delta Spike Sparks Mask Advisory in Kansas City

Choosing Between Vaccines and Masks

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

This is a mask-up Monday. It’s also mask-up Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

That’s the word from top public health agencies in the area.

If you haven’t heard, 10 Kansas City area health departments have just issued a joint public advisory recommending that unvaccinated residents wear face coverings.

The move comes amid growing concerns about the spread of the Delta variant in Kansas City and an increase in COVID hospitalizations.

Notably, this is only a recommendation. It is not a mandate. And there seems to be no appetite for imposing one anytime soon.

On “Week in Review” over the weekend, I interviewed the public health directors in Kansas City and in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. All of them said there were no plans being hatched behind the scenes to impose a new round of mask mandates and business restrictions.

So this latest advisory is on the honor system.

The same can be said about a new travel advisory the city of Chicago is imposing on Missouri residents. 

Chicago officials say unvaccinated Missourians entering the city need to either quarantine for 10 days or prove a negative COVID-19 test.

There’s no word on how such a rule would be enforced.

Let the Games Begin

The Olympic Games begin this week in Tokyo. Opening ceremonies are this Friday. 

About a dozen athletes from the Kansas City area will be competing in Japan, including the Kansas City Royals Bubba Starling. Baseball and softball are returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2006. 

Here are five other interesting facts you may not be aware of:

1. NEW SPORTS:  You may be surprised to see several new sports have been added, including karate, surfing and skateboarding. 

2. THE MEDALS:  Amid continuing COVID concerns, winning athletes will have to put their own medals around their necks. Also, the International Olympic Committee is prohibiting any handshakes or hugs during the ceremony.

By the way, the medals in Tokyo are made from recycled cellphones, tablets and laptops. For the last four years, local organizers have been asking Japanese residents to donate their old electronics. Apparently, small amounts of gold, silver and bronze in the devices were extracted to forge the medals.

3. THE COVID GAMES: We’ve become accustomed to athletes being disqualified for failing drug tests. How many athletes will be disqualified for failing COVID tests? With no vaccination requirement, it’s already becoming a concern. 

Blue Valley High School graduate Leanne Wong is already facing criticism for refusing the vaccine. She’s an alternate on the women’s gymnastics team.  Both her parents are research scientists who say there are already strict protocols in place to protect their daughter and other athletes.

There will be daily COVID tests and temperature checks at the games. And for the first time in any sporting event’s history, all attendees are required to own a smartphone with two installed apps. One records the results of the daily COVID test, and the other is a track and trace locator.

4. THE SILENT GAMES: Amid concerns over COVID, the athletes will compete in empty stadiums, prompting some commentators to dub this “the silent games.” But with no roar from the crowd, recordings of stadium noise from previous Olympic Games will be pumped into venues to give the athletes at least the idea of people cheering them on. 

5. TIME DELAY: Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Kansas City, so if you want to see the opening ceremonies live on Friday, including the parade of athletes, you’re going to have to get up extra early at 6 a.m.

Infrastructure Vote

Infrastructure will be the big word in Washington this week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for a vote this week on a more than $1 trillion plan to improve the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and internet connections. 

A companion bill already passed by the House includes money for several Kansas City area projects, including improvements on U.S. 69 in Overland Park, the purchase of electric buses in Kansas City and cash to make the 18th and Vine Jazz District more pedestrian friendly.

Passage is not a slam dunk. There’s still a sharp division over how it will be financed.

Waiting for the Gavel

Watch for a possible ruling this week from the Missouri Supreme Court on the legal spat over Medicaid expansion.

The state’s highest court heard oral arguments in the case last week and some court watchers say a quick decision may be on the way.

Last month, a judge ruled that Missouri’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion measure was unconstitutional because the ballot question didn’t include a funding mechanism. 

The legal wrangling leaves about 270,000 Missourians in limbo. They would have been eligible for health coverage starting on July 1.

Police Funding Fight

Don’t expect a swift ruling in the clash between Kansas City and the Board of Police Commissioners over police funding.

A Jackson County judge has just set the timeline for hearing the case. That courtroom showdown won’t happen until September 1.

Tent Cities Return

A day after Kansas City officially ended its homeless hotel program, the tents are back up.

Over the weekend, more than a dozen tents were spotted near a busy intersection in Westport.

They have since been moved by the city. They’ve now been relocated near the Scout statue in Penn Valley Park.

Kansas City earmarked nearly $3 million to house the homeless in hotel rooms. It was part of a 90-day program to remove the homeless from city streets until a more permanent fix could be found.

But that’s proving elusive. An effort to build a tiny homes village with hundreds of units for the homeless has been embroiled in controversy. Neighborhood groups have lobbied council members not to locate the settlement in their communities.

The issue is back on the agenda as the council meets this Thursday. 

Voting in Kansas

If you live in Kansas, you can now start casting your ballots ahead of the upcoming August primary election. 

Advance in-person voting begins this Saturday.

Scores of local school board and city council races will be decided in the Aug. 3 election. 

Voters in Overland Park will be narrowing their choice of candidates to be the next mayor of the city. In Wyandotte County, Mayor David Alvey is facing four challengers as he seeks reelection.

NBA Disrupts Royals

Will the NBA crown a new champion this week? The Milwaukee Bucks are now one game away from claiming professional basketball’s greatest prize. It could happen this Tuesday night. If the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns, it will be their first NBA championship win in 50 years.

In fact, it’s such a big deal it’s disrupting the Kansas City Royals schedule. 

The Royals Tuesday night game against the Milwaukee Brewers has been moved from the evening to the afternoon to avoid conflicting with the NBA game in Milwaukee.

Amtrak Service Returns

For the first time since the pandemic began, full train service is being restored between Kansas City and St. Louis. 

Amtrak has announced it’s returning to two daily round-trip trains between the two cities, starting today.

On the Fringe

Kansas City’s Fringe Festival is underway. And for the second year in a row, the annual arts festival is going completely virtual.

For the next two weeks you can see nearly 50 theater, dance, film and musical shows. Most tickets are between $5 and $10.

Chiefs Camp

The Kansas City Chiefs go camping this week. 

The team returns to St. Joseph for training camp on Friday.A nd fans are welcomed back to watch as well.

The Chiefs play their first pre-season game less than a month from now. They take on the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 14.

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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