More Kansas communities consider implementing mask requirements

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 8:28 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - After many counties across Kansas, including Sedgwick, opted out of Governor Laura Kelly’s order requiring masks in public, the City of Wichita took action to issue its own mask ordinance within its limits.

Now more cities are doing the same. By Monday night, Winfield and Salina approved mask requirements. Valley Center discussed the issue at its Tuesday City Council meeting.

Earlier Tuesday, the Newton City Commission decided to wait until next week to consider passing its own mask requirement. Newton city staff members are tasked with making changes to the proposed resolution to allow schools and churches to have their own rules, but the commission didn’t table the discussion until hearing from residents.

Among those in Newton who made their voices heard Tuesday was Dr. Stephanie Gibson, a physician with Newton Medical Center.

“The scientific community is certain that masks prevent the spread of COVID, and preventing the spread of COVID does save lives,” she said.

But not everyone is in agreement on enforcing a mask requirement. One mother who addressed the Newton City Commission said she’s hard of hearing and believes wearing masks should be up to the individual.

“I don’t want it to be required, and I don’t want to be considered a criminal for not wearing one,” she said. “If I’m asked to wear one, I don’t mind putting one on, but I don’t want it to be a requirement.”

Newton City Commissioner Rod Kreie said he’s “not really into mandates,” but thinks “it’s important that (the commission) shows leadership.”

The League of Kansas Municipalities also weighed in on the issue of local mask requirements.

“This is very separate from what the counties are doing with the executive order,” League of Kansas Municipalities General Counsel Amanda Stanley said. “There’s nothing in Kansas law that would preempt this, so currently our cities are having great public policy debates. They’re getting input from citizens and businesses, communities, and trying to make the best decisions for their local communities.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said cities in Kansas have home-rule powers from the state constitution, allowing them to issue these kinds of orders independent of county commissions.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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