By Jessie Wagoner
Cases of COVID-19 have increased in McPherson County, leading city commissioners to reconsider the mask ordinance. Just last week the city commission voted unanimously to allow the mask ordinance to expire.
“I am less impacted by petitions and comments and more impacted by data,” Mayor Tom Brown said Monday morning. “And the data showed on Wednesday I believe that we had five cases per 100,000 seven day moving average. That is very low. Unfortunately, we had a spike of 25 to 30 positive cases. As of the last report I saw from the health department we had 40 active cases. We jumped all the way to 23 cases per 100,000 seven day moving average. That is only two cases away from being in the highest category.”
According to information released by the McPherson County Health Department late Monday afternoon the county has a total of 247 cases. Of those, 221 have met recovery guidelines and there has been one death. As of press time, there are 25 active cases in the county and two current hospitalizations.
Brown advised he met with Dr. Mosley, head of Wesley Medical Center’s Emergency Services and also received a letter from Dr. Tyler Hughes of McPherson in addition to reading the most recent data about the effectiveness of wearing masks when social distancing cannot be maintained. He also pointed out his observations from dining out in both Wichita and McPherson. While in Wichita he observed social distancing in practice. In McPherson, he said every booth and table was full, hand sanitizer wasn’t being used and there were no masks.
“We have become so casual in town that we aren’t stopping anything,” Brown said. “We have to change. As soon as we didn’t extend the mask ordinance it was like everything was a year ago. There was no response to the plea for social distancing, no response to hand sanitizer by many. There was a departure from masks to a large extent. When we reconvene I want to bring back the ordinance that was there last week and change the dates on it and go back to masks.”
Commissioner Larry Wiens was also prepared to reinstate the mask ordinance on Monday.
“I’d like to say I made the statement last week after the vote that if things changed we would bring this back up,” Commissioner Larry Wiens said. “I did not say we would reintroduce it. I said we would have communication, we would talk. We have done that and that is exactly what I meant when I made the statement that if things changed we would change along with it.”
Commissioner Gary Mehl explained that he is pro-mask, wearing one anytime it is necessary. He believes the masks work and would like to see people wearing them when they can’t maintain social distancing. However, he explained he doesn’t think a mask ordinance will be effective.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for another mandate,” Mehl said. “I don’t think a mandate is the answer. I have talked to a number of people and would like to explore the educational route. These people that are opposed to wearing a mask are not going to wear a mask because of anything you said this morning, although I agree with much of what you said. Until we can educate them and change their minds and hearts to wanting to do this, we aren’t going to get anywhere with a mandate.”
Mehl has several appointments scheduled this week to meet with community health professionals to talk about increasing education efforts in the community. The commission will reconvene on Wednesday morning to make a decision on if the mask ordinance will be reinstated. If it is, the ordinance would be in effect until Oct. 20 which would be two full incubation periods.
“It is a sign of humility, it is a sign of care,” Brown said. “When you go into Dillon’s or Walmart and wear your mask going in and then take it off in the aisle, you are not showing care for others. When you ridicule someone instead of gently reminding them to wear a mask you are not operating in a kind and caring manner. The enemy is the virus. We have to come together as a community and work together so we can defeat this locally.”
In other business the commission:
- Approved wages and new hires
- Approved bonds
- Received an update on road projects