WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners voted to recommend Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order #20-52, requiring face masks or other face coverings in public.
During a special Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday, the Board voted that Governor Kelly’s Executive Order No. 20-52 is not a mandate but it is strongly recommended to be followed by individuals and businesses in Sedgwick County. The Board’s action was to modify Executive Order No. 20-52 to strongly recommend measures within Sedgwick County for face masks or other face coverings in public areas.
“The health of our community is of utmost importance and we have to take this virus very seriously,” said Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner. “We have a lot of information in front of us and had incredibly enlightening conversation with business leaders earlier. This virus is not going away and one way to protect our community is to include wearing masks.”
Based on COVID-19 data from the holiday weekend, there is potential for the Chairman to call a special meeting early next week.
There is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. As businesses and organizations reopen, it is important to remember and to use prevention measures like washing your hands often with soap and water, wear a face mask while in public (if you are able), and practice social distancing by keeping six feet of space between you and others.
On Thursday, the governor released guidelines on a new policy requiring most Kansans to wear a mask in public when social distancing is not an option, according to a news release. The mask requirement will go into effect Friday at 12:01 a.m.
Local county commissioners can opt out of the order or make changes to make it less stringent for their county.
At the Friday meeting, legal counsel told the Sedgwick County Commissioners they have 3 options:
- Do not take action and allow the order to go into effect
- Make the order less stringent, such as just make it a recommendation instead of an order
- Opt out of the executive order
Residents had until 3 p.m. Thursday to let commissioners know their thoughts on the topic. The County says it got more than 750 responses.
County Commission Chair Pete Meitzner said that of the 500 or so emails he saw, they were running about 50/50 on the issue of mandatory masks, with slightly more in favor of wearing masks.
The County intends to put a link to the public comments on its website.
As the commissioners debated the issue, County Commissioner Lacey Cruse read an email she said all the commissioners received at 3:16 p.m. providing them with an update on hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Sedgwick County.
According to the email, Wesley Medical Center currently has 12 cases of coronavirus with one under investigation and Ascension Via Christi has 15 with one under investigation. Two of the Via Christi patients are in ICU.
Dr. Garold Minns, Sedgwick County Health Officer, told the commissioners that both hospitals have told him they are very concerned about the trajectory of positive cases. He said the hospitals asked him to relay their concern to the commissioners.
Minns said masks are the easiest option for changing the trajectory and would have the least impact on the economy.
Earlier at 1 p.m., commissioners held a special staff meeting to have a conversation with the business community to discuss COVID-19 business safety practices. Businesses from retail, gyms, restaurants, hair salons, entertainment venues chimed in on their practices. Many are already requiring or encouraging masks, providing extra cleaning, and stressing social distancing. Click the YouTube link to watch below.