Commissioners hear from physicians

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth County commissioners heard Wednesday from two doctors who recommend a mask mandate be imposed in the county.

Commissioners took no action regarding a mask mandate.

Earlier this month, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly imposed a statewide order requiring people to wear masks in public spaces. The order was designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. County commissioners exempted the county from the governor;s order.

Commissioners approved their own order that recommends people wear masks but does not make it mandatory.

Last week, County Health Officer Jamie Miller told commissioners that local physicians are recommending a mask order for the county.

Miller appeared before commissioners again Wednesday with Dr. Kathleen McBratney, who is the medical director for the Leavenworth County Health Department and EMS. Commissioners also heard from Lansing physician Dr. Richard Whitlow.

Miller told commissioners the use of masks can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“That can reduce our spread in our community,” he said.

McBratney argued wearing masks can help prevent another COVID-19 shutdown of businesses.

Commissioner Mike Stieben said more people died in Kansas from the flu during the 2019-2020 flu season than have died in the state from COVID-19.

“We didn’t mask everybody up for influenza,” he said.

McBratney said a flu vaccine was available.

She also said people know when they have the flu because they become sick. But she said people may have COVID-19 without knowing it.

McBratney named several other local physicians she said also support a mask requirement.

“I have not had a single physician say no,” she said.

Stieben said he does not believe the number of COVID-19 cases in Leavenworth County justify a mask mandate right now.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz, who participated in the meeting by telephone, said she supports adhering to the recommendations of the local health professionals.

Kaaz said she does not want to see the county having to end up imposing stronger mitigation methods.

Stieben said commissioners need a proposal for a mask mandate with a method for determining when it would no longer be in effect.

Also Wednesday, commissioners approved an agreement with a company called QLESS. The company will provide the county government an online appointment scheduling program for three years at a cost not to exceed $61,000.

Culbertson asked if this program is intended as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic or something that will be permanent in the county government.

“This will be a permanent thing,” County Administrator Mark Loughry said.

Culbertson questioned whether this would prevent people from having the ability to walk into the Leavenworth County Courthouse and conduct business with someone.

Loughry noted that county officials are planning to add security at the courthouse. He said people would not be able to walk into the courthouse unchecked.

“Older people are not going to use this,” Culbertson said of the QLESS program.

Commissioner Chad Schimke said instead of pulling a paper number from a dispenser, visitors to the courthouse will be able to push a button to be entered into a queue.

Commissioners also visited with County Treasurer Janice Van Parys, who recently started accepting walk-ins for her office.

The courthouse was closed earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the courthouse reopened in May, visitors have been required to schedule appointments.

But Van Parys has said an appointment only system has not worked for her office.

The Treasurer’s Office at the courthouse is now open for walk-ins from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Van Parys said she plans to begin accepting walk-ins at the county annex in Tonganoxie next week.

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