Nov 20, 2020 9:00 PM

Great Bend against mask requirement; Barton County still to discuss

Posted Nov 20, 2020 9:00 PM

By COLE REIF
Great Bend Post

City of Great Bend administration did not feel like forcing a mask mandate was the right choice, but a suggestion for the Great Bend City Council to encourage citizens to wear face coverings did not get much support.

Two days before Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a mask mandate Wednesday to slow the spread of COVID-19, Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis asked the governing body to take a stance on the issue.

"I think, as the governing body, you should probably take a public stance or at least encourage the public to utilize masks when possible," said Francis. "I don't want to go as far as looking at a mandate."

The City Council voted to keep the Home for the Holidays Festival & Parade for Nov. 28 intact, but never addressed the need to encourage the wearing of masks. City administration on Thursday overruled the council's decision and cancelled the parade and festival due to staff quarantined from a positive COVID-19 case.

"I think our community relies on us to make the right choices," said Great Bend Mayor Cody Schmidt. "We did a lot of research on communities with mandates and it really has not worked. I don't think that is our option."

The city still requires staff to wear face coverings while at work if social distancing is not possible. Also citizens are required to wear masks when entering city-owned buildings. Great Bend announced Wednesday night that City Hall and the Great Bend Events Center are temporarily closed to the public following a positive COVID-19 case that quarantined staff.

"We are taking as many precautions as we can to limit exposure to staff," said Francis.

Francis added he has spoken with Barton County Administrator Phil Hathcock and expects the county to take a stance on wearing masks. While there is no topic of discussion of face coverings on the next Barton County Commission meeting for Monday, Nov. 23, Hathcock mentioned he anticipates the mask discussion to come up in study session following the meeting.

Governor Kelly’s order takes effect Nov. 25, but state law still allows Kansas’ 105 counties to opt out.