The following is a transcript of an interview with Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas that aired Sunday, October 25, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now go to Kansas City, Missouri and its Mayor Quinton Lucas. Good morning to you, Mr. Mayor.
KANSAS CITY MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Missouri’s Health Department said it’s- it unintentionally underreported the number of positive COVID cases in your state and has been since October 17th. Can you give us a reality check of what’s happening in your city right now? Because we’ve seen reports that ICUs at your local hospitals are simply overwhelmed right now. What do you need to do? Are you setting up field hospitals yet?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, we are not setting up field hospitals, we always do have a standby plan in case we need them. But more to the point, this is a challenging time where we have trouble trusting data, sometimes data from Washington, data from our own state. We continue to have independent reporting that shows that there is a significant outbreak in Kansas City, but importantly in the regions around us. So while our city has a mask mandate, there are counties all around Missouri and Kansas nearby that do not. A lot of those folks get sick. A lot of those folks have to go to hospitals, and there’s hospital space in the cities. So we’re running into real challenges at ICUs and real challenges with the virus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they are not yet overwhelmed?
MAYOR LUCAS: Not yet overwhelmed, although we do have some concerns about what happens in the winter months as more people are inside, as we continue to see this surge in infections and a surge in deaths. We had more deaths in Missouri in September than we had in any month previously. That has been a huge concern for our area.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In your area, the last time you were with us in August, you said you were looking at reducing capacity at bars and restaurants to avoid the spike that we saw in other cities. I know the White House advised you to do that. You’re seeing that spike now, but your bars are at 50% capacity, same as they were in August. Restaurants can still serve indoors as long as tables are six feet apart. Why haven’t you reduced capacity?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, thus far we continue to enforce a lot of our rules. Just yesterday, our health department shut down, I believe, two bars that were violating certain capacity rules. But here’s the real challenge. We’re catching more people who aren’t taking the virus seriously. I listened to the ambassador a moment ago who started out by talking about the China virus rather than a challenge in Kansas City or the Midwest or Missouri or Kansas. Every time that we issue a new rule, we get a huge political pushback. Masks are controversial. Testing is controversial. Dr. Fauci is now controversial in the president’s eyes. That undercuts our ability as local leaders in middle America to try to push back the virus has spread.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate that. But, you know, epidemiologists say the longer you wait, the more drastic those measures will have to be. You’ll be- your hand will be forced. So why not take these measures that the White House is telling you to take now?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, we continue to consider that, and we might actually take these steps. But here’s the thing, we don’t live on an island. We are surrounded by a lot of states. We’re surrounded by a lot of communities. If we have a rule, but then right across the line, somebody isn’t wearing a mask. You can eat inside. You can have gigantic events. And frankly, if the Republican Party itself is having gigantic events right across the line, then that creates real challenges for us. So we’re trying to balance what I think is a very aggressive response while recognizing the realities around us. A nationwide mask mandate would be helpful for this country, particularly where it’s spiking in middle America. A state mandate would be helpful and we do not have one, either in Missouri or Kansas. That’s the reason that a lot of mayors’ hands are tied. We will do everything we can in Kansas City to keep people safe, including evaluating a bar shut down. But if every city around you is still loose and wide open and bars are having full capacity and there are huge parties, that’s going to be a concern, particularly in the cold weather months.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, I’m looking at the upcoming election and I know Missouri doesn’t have early in-person voting or drop boxes, and absentee ballots sometimes require a voter to get it- to have their ID and to have it notarized. So there- there are some barriers here.
Are you concerned about turnout on November 3rd?
MAYOR LUCAS: You know, I’m always concerned about turnout, particularly voter intimidation, particularly some of the work that’s done to misdirect voters. So in Missouri, we’re one of 10 states that does not have a pure form of early voting. That said, a lot of people have been voting absentee. Twenty three percent of Kansas citizens already have. That’s registered voters. We’re expecting up to 40% of registered voters to vote- vote before Election Day. But particularly in communities of color, particularly in communities where you see voter intimidation tactics work, I am concerned about things such as which is totally lawful, something in Missouri called poll challengers. And while they can’t challenge the person voting, they can stand there when you’re checking in and say this person shouldn’t be voting today. As somebody who was turned away from the polls recently because of a snafu, I recognize that that can be a real barrier to somebody who perhaps is going out to vote for the first time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
MAYOR LUCAS: So we continue to tell people what their rights are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
MAYOR LUCAS: We continue to have those concerns.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Mayor, thank you. Good luck to you. We’ll be right back.