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Sedgwick County changes mask order to let businesses use ‘their best judgment’

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wednesday, Sedgwick County Commissioners took up the issue of a local health order that required masks and other restrictions, including social distancing. They decided to make a change to the wording of it.

It comes nearly a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines on masks.

Last Thursday, the CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings. Gov. Laura Kelly adopted the new guidelines.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in outdoors in crowds and indoors, except in crowded settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

The Sedgwick County Commission discussion lasted about an hour. It ended with Chairman Pete Meitzner making a motion to change the local health order to “strongly recommend that individuals become vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible, consistent with CDC recommendations” and “encourages businesses and organizations to determine in their best judgment whether to require individuals to wear masks or other face coverings and/or to social distance from one another.”

Commissioner Jim Howell wanted to rescind the health order completely and voted against Meitzner’s proposal. Meitzner’s plan passed, 4 to 1.

During the discussion, Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns addressed the mask issue and the lack of county residents now taking the vaccine. He said nearly 30% of the eligible population in the county has been vaccinated.

Minns said the county is still seeing 200 to 300 new cases of coronavirus a week. He added that a majority of those hospitalized in the ICU haven’t been vaccinated.

“We need to work hard getting that vaccination number up,” he told commissioners. “Everyone unvaccinated now, it is their best interest to take it.”

The assistant county manager said the county hasn’t received any new vaccine in the last two weeks because the county still has an adequate supply. He added that the vaccine site at the old Wichita Public Library still has a tremendous capacity to give more vaccines and that five to 10 mobile clinics a week are being conducted in the county.

Minns told commissioners he still strongly recommends masks in congregate settings to protect those who may not be vaccinated.

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