By Jessie Wagoner
McPHERSON—The time has run out on the mask ordinance for the City of McPherson, and commissioners made the decision to not extend it during their commission meeting Tuesday.
The regularly scheduled meeting was moved from the municipal building to the Community Building to accommodate for members of the public to attend to express their opinions on the mask ordinance. Several community members came forward, some expressing support for the mask ordinance while others were adamantly opposed to an ordinance. A petition was presented to the commission, which garnered more than 400 signatures, asking for the mask ordinance to expire and not be reinstated.
“This petition was started by people who believe in a bottom up style of government and not being dictated by a top down style of government,” one of the presenters said. “When the mandate isn’t even being enforced, it is leaving it up to choice, which is how it should be, but it is creating a lot of division among people.”
While the mask ordinance was in effect, those in violation could be fined $10 for not wearing a mask. However, the commission advised no one had been fined and the only enforcement being done was educating those not in compliance.
“Why have it when it isn’t enforced,” another speaker asked.
One speaker expressed outrage at the mask ordinance and advised she wouldn’t wear a mask. She said her children are suffering due to the mask requirements, and she is fed up.
“My children are treated like animals going to school every morning,” she said. “They have to wear the mask into the building; they have a thermometer shaped like a gun pointed at their head every day, and they have to wear these stupid masks. I’m sick of walking into stores; I’m not wearing a mask; I will not conform. My kids suffer from this. It is ridiculous.”
Masks will continue to be required in schools. The city mask mandate or lack of mandate has no impact on the school district.
Medical professionals addressed the commission, expressing their desire to see the mask ordinance extended. Dr. Sheila Gorman advised research has shown and continues to show that mask wearing decreases the rate of transmission of the virus. She also shared research about the long-term effects of COVID, showing that people continue to have lasting effects from the virus long after meeting official recovery guidelines. She recommended the mandate be extended.
Shalei Shea, director of the McPherson County Health Department, submitted a letter to the commission, asking them to extend the mask ordinance. She advised that the percent of positive cases decreased when McPherson and Lindsborg both had mask mandates in effect.
After more than an hour of public comment and discussion, a motion was made to allow the mask ordinance to expire. It was passed unanimously.
“I can tell you a lot of prayer goes into these things,” Mayor Tom Brown said.
Commissioner Larry Weins advised he wouldn’t be opposed to relooking at a mask ordinance if cases increased.