MISSION, KS (AP) – Fewer than five of Kansas’ 105 counties are still in need of masks, and those left may not last long.

Johnson County, the state’s largest county with more than 600,000 residents, will consider whether the mask order will expire on Thursday. Health officials there have said they will not resist dropping the requirement.

Such an action would leave strong masked orders in only three counties – Riley County in the Manhattan area; Douglas County in the Lawrence area; and Wyandotte County in the Kansas City, Kansas area, suggests newly released survey data from the Kansas Association of Counties and the Kansas Health Institute.

And Riley County commissioners said at a meeting earlier this month that they will not attempt to expand their appointment after mid-May.

The move goes beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend. While the agency relaxed its guidelines for wearing masks outdoors on Tuesday, it continues to recommend masks to people vaccinated in public indoor spaces such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping malls, gyms, museums and cinemas.

But the decline in mask orders has been steady in Kansas and nationally.

When the Kansas Association of Counties contacted the counties two weeks ago, Shawnee County in the Topeka region and Lyon County in the Emporia region were also classified as mask mandates. But Shawnee County later allowed his order to largely expire, requiring masks only in a few government buildings. And Lyon County has switched its mandate to a recommendation.

As recently as February, 57 districts had mask mandates, according to previous surveys.

The decline in mask orders accelerated after lawmakers overturned Governor Laura Kelly’s newly enacted order that demanded her earlier this month.

Another issue that counties are filing mask orders is a Kansas law that gives residents and businesses objecting to pandemic restrictions the right to initiate a lightning-fast 72-hour review by a judge. The burden of proof rests on officials to demonstrate that their rules are as non-restrictive as possible in protecting public health.

Kimberly Qualls, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Association of Counties, also attributed the vaccine’s adoption and the declining number of cases to the decline in mask orders.

“The vaccine just made a huge difference,” she said.

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