Marion County leaders discuss decision to turn down local mask order

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 12:10 AM CST
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MARION COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - A new mask order for Kansas announced Wednesday by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly comes on the heals of Marion County voting down a local mask order earlier this week. Last week in Marion County, the positive test rate was 46 percent, up from 20 percent at the end of October.

“I really hate to see anybody wanting to penalize another person, and I know that shouldn’t weigh in on a board of health decision, but it does on an emotional level,” Marion County Board of Commission Chair Jonah Gehring said.

Ghering added while he encourages people to wear masks, he doesn’t feel a mandate is the best way to go or the most effective tool in all situations.

The request for the mask mandate came at the urging of 27 local healthcare providers and some in Newton where Marion County patients who need more intensive care are usually sent. The difficulty in transferring patients to that care is something Marion County Medical Consultant Don Hodson saw last week.

“We couldn’t, at least initially, get any intensive care for (a man with COVID-19) because nobody in Wichita or the surrounding area would take him,” Hodson said.

Like several counties across Kansas, the last month in Marion County has seen news cases rise rapidly. The latest data from Wednesday (Nov. 18) included 20 new COVID1- cases as Marion County nears 400 cases since the start of the pandemic. The case total nearly tripled over the past month. The Marion County Health Department asks people to follow quarantine rules as well as to wear masks in public, wash hands more frequently and social distance.

“(If you’re) sent home by the school (or) sent home by hour work to be in quarantine, go quarantine,” Marion County Health Officer/Health Department Director Diedre Serene said. “That doesn’t mean go out and go to the coffee club or go out and go to the local grocery store.”

Marion County commissioners this summer did pass a resolution to strongly recommend face masks. Following Governor Kelly’s announcement Wednesday afternoon, the county’s board chair said he plans to call a special meeting to review the executive order.

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