NEWTON—The Harvey County Commission listened to nearly 25 minutes of public comment about mask mandates Sept. 15, a day on which the commission was tasked with choosing whether or not to extend a mandate expiring that day.
After seeing how many people wanted to speak, Commissioner Randy Hague limited comments to two minutes. The majority of the people speaking spent their time speaking against a mandate they called an infringement of their constitutional rights.
"There is no medical science that supports this. I believe it is my constitutional right to take care of my own health care. This is fear mongering," said Randy Dubier. "... I feel this is just fear mongering and pressuring to get to more sinister things down the road."
His and others’ comments about science were disputed by Dr. Jennifer Koontz, the president of the Harvey County Medical Society.
"The science remains strong and clear, that masks are effective in preventing COVID-19 transmission within the community," Koontz said. "No science or research has disputed this. The recommendations remain consistence with the World Health Organization ... the CDC and the state of Kansas."
For those who are "uncertain" about the use of masks, Koontz offered an explanation of how, and why, she believes masks work.
"First, COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets," Koontz said. "Masks blunt the spray of our respiratory droplets. Viruses do not travel on their own. They travel within those droplets. I think a thing a lot of people miss. ... Wearing a mask is not making a choice for your own health. It is making a choice for the health of those around you."
The county’s own statistics, according to county administration and the health department, show declines in active cases and daily positive testing rates since the mask mandate was first enacted.
"This is something that can help," said Dr. Doyle Detweiler, public health officer for Harvey County. "From a public health standpoint, this is the right thing to do."
"We have local statistics to support this," said Commissioner Chip Westfall.
The commission voted unanimously to extend the mask order through Oct. 19.