Mask mandate motion fails

John Richmeier
Leavenworth County Health Officer Jamie Miller, foreground, speaks to County Commissioners Mike Stieben and Chad Schimke on Wednesday at the Leavenworth County Courthouse. Commissioners Jeff Culbertson and Vicky Kaaz participated in the meeting by telephone. Commissioner Doug Smith was absent.

A motion for a mask mandate in Leavenworth County failed Wednesday during a meeting of county commissioners.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz made a motion to rescind a resolution that opted the county out of the governor’s mask order. But the motion died without a vote because no second was provided by another commissioner.

“Hearing none, the motion fails,” Commissioner Mike Stieben said.

Stieben was acting as the temporary chairman of the County Commission on Wednesday because Commission Chairman Doug Smith was absent.

Commissioners passed a resolution in July to opt the county out of Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order to mandate the wearing of masks in Kansas.

The county resolution recommends the wearing of masks but does not make it mandatory in Leavenworth County.

Kaaz sought to rescind the resolution so the governor’s executive order would go into effect in the county.

Wednesday's County Commission meeting took place before the governor announced a new mask order. Kelly's new order, which will go into effect Nov. 25, will apply to counties that opted out of the earlier mandate. Commissioners in these counties still have the option of opting out of the new order.

Kaaz's unsuccessful motion Wednesday came after Leavenworth County Health Officer Jamie Miller spoke to commissioners about a significant increase in coronavirus cases.

“We cannot continue down this path,” Miller said.

Miller said he fears what will happen during the next several weeks with the holiday season and public gatherings.

“We’re seeing an influx of community spread,” he said.

He said this means it is unknown where people are exposed to the virus.

“It’s everywhere,” he said.

Miller said the available strategies for mitigating the spread remain measures such as social distancing, proper hygiene, wearing masks and staying home when sick.

Miller was asked about surrounding counties that have mask mandates but also are experiencing high positivity rates.

Miller suggested people in these areas may have COVID-19 fatigue and not adhere to the mandates or not properly wear masks. He said enforcement of mandates also may be an issue.

He said the strategies for mitigating the spread of the virus have been successful in local schools.

“When it is enforced, it is working,” he said, “and the schools are a model for that.”

Stieben said COVID-19 numbers are going up all over the region and the entire country. He said people have to take personal responsibility for wearing masks.

Stieben suggested the commission should have a public hearing on the mask mandate before moving forward with Kaaz’s proposed course of action. He said all sides should be heard on the matter.

Kaaz indicated she appreciated Stieben’s comments but said the county is in an extraordinary situation.

Kaaz said she has heard comments for and against a mask mandate since July. She questioned whether anyone’s mind will be changed.

Stieben said a mandate is a no-win situation.

“But we all are in agreement that you need to use your masks,” he said.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

Leavenworth County Health Officer Jamie Miller speaks Wednesday during a County Commission meeting.