Mask mandate extended here
Jackson County’s public health order, which requires the use of a face mask in public and limits mass gatherings to 25 people here, has been extended one week on a 2-1 vote by the Jackson County Commissioners.
Commissioners Janet Zwonitzer and Bill Elmer voted in favor of the policy extension, and Commissioner Ed Kathrens voted against after speaking with Angie Reith, Jackson County local health officer, during their regular meeting yesterday afternoon.
The commissioners will review the health order during their next commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 30.
Reith reported that since Thursday, Nov. 19, 95 new positive COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases had been reported in the county, including 40 on Thursday alone.
“It’s a huge increase. We’ve never seen 40 cases in one day. That’s huge,” Reith said. “We’re not seeing a decrease. Our case positivity rate isn’t good, and we’ve never seen this many hospitalizations.”
Reith reported eight current hospitalizations in the county due to COVID-19.
“I believe that we need to extend the county’s mandate,” Reith said. “We do have uncontrolled spread in Jackson County. I feel that we need to continue with the masks and stick with limiting mass gatherings to 25.”
On Nov. 13, the commissioners unanimously approved a health order that requires county residents to wear face masks in public, limits non-religious gatherings in the county to 25 and requires restaurants and bars to keep groups of customers at least six feet apart.
Reith said that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is assisting the county health department with the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which makes it difficult for her to determine how many active cases are in the county.
“I no longer have instant access to know where we are,” she said. “We’ve had more than 100 new cases reported in the last week. We’re seeing more adults than kids test positive. We’re seeing transmissions at work sites, social gatherings and religious gatherings.”
Commissioner Elmer said he wasn’t in favor of limiting what people can do and worries about the impact the health order has on the county’s businesses.
“We have to go along with own medical professionals though,” Elmer said. “They are suffering through this.”
Commissioner Zwonitzer said that local restaurants have adapted during this time and that the health order doesn’t “shut anybody down.”
Commissioner Kathrens said that, “with or without the health order, people who want to wear masks will wear masks and those who don’t want to won’t.”