Health officer: Local doctors recommend mask order

John Richmeier
Leavenworth County Health Officer Jamie Miller, left, speaks Wednesday during a meeting of the County Commission. Also pictured is Commissioner Jeff Culbertson and Senior County Counselor David Van Parys.

The Leavenworth County health officer says local physicians recommend a mask mandate be implemented in the county.

County Health Officer Jamie Miller spoke Wednesday to Leavenworth County commissioners. The commissioners were reviewing their earlier decision to opt Leavenworth County out of a governor’s executive order that requires people in Kansas to wear masks in public spaces.

Commissioners took no action Wednesday regarding their earlier decision, and the county remains exempt from the mandate.

Commissioners opted out of the governor’s executive order by approving their own order July 2. The county order recommends wearing masks in public but does not make it mandatory

Miller said Wednesday that Dr. Kathleen McBratney, medical director for the Leavenworth County Health Department, has visited with a lot of physicians in the community.

Miller said McBratney and the other physicians support an order requiring people to wear masks in public.

Miller said the county has seen an upward trend in the last two weeks in the percentage of COVID-19 tests with positive results.

According to information Miller provided to commissioners, the rate of positive test results went from 4.89% on July 6 to 7.31% on Monday.

Miller said there have been enough studies to support that wearing masks work as a mitigation tool for COVID-19.

“There’s enough evidence out there,” he said.

He said wearing masks will not eradicate COVID-19 but it will slow down the spread of the disease.

“It is proven that it will reduce the spread,” he said.

Miller acknowledged that enforcement of a mask requirement may be an issue. He said the Leavenworth County Health Department does not have the staff to enforce such an order, and he expressed doubt that law enforcement agencies would be able to take on this burden.

He said it requires buy-in from the community.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said he does not believe one rule for both the rural and urban areas of the county is a good idea.

“One rule doesn’t work,” he said.

He said businesses and cities can enact their own mask requirements.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said businesses can still require customers to wear masks even if the county does not have an order with a mask mandate.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith said he would like to monitor the COVID-19 cases now that many businesses in the area are requiring people to wear masks.

Miller said it may take about two weeks before county officials see any results from the new mask policies of area businesses.

“I’m very torn,” Commissioner Mike Stieben said.

Stieben said he wants to go along with the recommendations of the health officer. Stieben said he would like for local doctors to meet with commissioners.

“I support the recommendations of our local public health officials,” Kaaz said.

She asked if McBratney can attend next week’s commission meeting.

Miller said McBratney was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting but he will see if she is available for next week’s meeting.

Outside of the issue of masks, Miller said a big problem in the county is people who do not follow quarantine orders or do not quarantine themselves while they are awaiting their COVID-19 test results.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a policy regarding how funds made available to the county as a result of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will be distributed.

• Approved a contract with Finney & Turnipseed, Topeka, for engineering design services for the replacement of a bridge on 206th Street south of Tonganoxie. Commissioners authorized the payment of up to $79,200 for the work.

• Approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Leavenworth regarding the splitting of funds from a federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.