Reno County commission votes 2-1 to keep mask order in place

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 6:24 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Despite uncertainty and questions about masks’ effectiveness in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the Reno County Commission on Tuesday, in a 2-1 vote, decided to keep a recommended order in place that mandates people in the county to wear masks in public.

Interim commissioner Mark Steffen opposed the order.

“I’m against this fear campaign that’s being run by the Kelly administration, by you and the health department, through the hospital, and through the chamber,” Steffen told Reno County Health Director Karla Nichols,

Steffen’s comments came after Nichols told commissioners that Reno County has had 45 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 30 days and recommended that they keep the current mask order in place.

Steffen disagreed with the number and accused Nichols and the hospital of creating a fear campaign. But many local businesses sided with the health department and its recommendations. Nearly 100 of them are listed in a newspaper ad in support of the formal health precautions. Among the supportive businesses is Beatz Fitness, which credits precautions like mask-wearing for helping them stay open during the pandemic and avoiding another shutdown. The fitness center has added its own precautions.

Beatz Fitness Co-owners Ben Ludwig and Sam Smith say they have socially distant spots in the studio with Xs marking where everyone should stand and how far apart they need to be from one another. They also emphasize cleaning protocols, cleaning after every session.

“Everybody’s been extremely accepting of that,” Smith said.

They’ve also started live-streaming classes online for members who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Reno County Health Department plans to continue recommending precautions until a vaccine is widely available.

“Until we’re upward of 60 percent, I’d be hesitant to let anyone drop maks or social distancing,” Reno County Health Department Consultant Dr. Scott Pauly said. For now, the health order is set to expire on Jan. 18.

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