LETTER: Mask debate

Ken Church

To the editor:

Would someone please tell me what has happened to political courage in Leavenworth County? Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a ruling on mandatory masks for Kansas counties weeks ago. Since then, the Leavenworth County Commission and the Leavenworth City Commission have been engaged in endless dithering and handwringing over what to do.

The Leavenworth County Commissioners asked for an in-depth report from medical experts. On July 29, they got one from Dr. Kathleen McBratney, Dr. Richard Whitlow and Leavenworth County Health Director Jamie Miller. These three gifted and long-serving health experts spoke with one voice. They agreed that a mask mandate, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing, have shown to have a positive effect on slowing the spread of COVID-19. I recommend people go to the Leavenworth County Commission website and watch the entirety of the meeting. These respected medical professionals presented an informative, scientifically-based overview of the coronavirus. Still, the commissioners failed to support the mask mandate.

Just the day before, four members of the Leavenworth City Commission met to consider a mandatory mask resolution. Commissioner Wilson was absent. They did not vote but Mayor Mike Griswold said there were two “for” and two “against” the mandate. According to Griswold, Commissioners Nancy Bauder and Mark Preisinger were in favor of a mask mandate and Commissioner Camalla Leonhard and he were opposed. In a study session the week before, Commissioner Wilson had gone on record as opposing the mask mandate.

I don’t understand the delay. There was much talk about the mask mandate being a divisive topic and several said that Leavenworth needs to focus on things that “bring us together.”

Pardon my bluntness, but it seems to me that some of our leaders appear to be waiting for the sky to fall before they act. Kindness is a good thing. Commissioner Jermaine Wilson has been rightly lauded for his efforts to promote random acts of kindness in our community. But isn’t wearing a mask to protect fellow citizens a random act of kindness?

Try telling a parent who has lost a child to a drunk or high driver the following: “I encourage people not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but I am opposed to making drunk driving or driving high a criminal offense.” This is not a time to be timid or tepid with this virus.

An enforced mandatory mask policy would only help in this fight. It would tell our children and teachers heading back to school that we stand with them. It is one of many strategies that have helped people in other countries bring down the infection and mortality rates of this killer virus. A mask protects the weak and the strong.

Truly great political leaders are born out of the tough calls they must make. Do the right thing, my friends. Pass the mask mandate and make sure to provide its enforcement. Gov. Kelly has led with strength and she has faced a firestorm of heat for doing so. She did it. You can, too.