With no action from commission, Kelly’s mask mandate will take effect Wednesday in Ellis County

Rafael Garcia

Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide mask mandate will take effect in Ellis County at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday after the Ellis County Commission at a special Monday morning meeting declined to pass a resolution opting out of the statewide mandate.

Kelly on Wednesday had announced a second attempt at a statewide mask mandate to combat the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases in the state. As of the latest statewide update Friday morning, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment was reporting 134,533 cases of COVID-19 in the state. The Ellis County Health Department also reported 2,129 total cases as of Friday.

Kelly’s order does not apply to county’s that choose to opt out of the order or have already passed their own mask requirements.

In a Facebook post after the meeting, commissioner Dustin Roths said he had been outnumbered in pushing for the commission to opt out of the mandate.

“This was not a question of mask efficacy, it was a question of government mask mandates,” Roths wrote. “This was blown completely out of proportion by the media as they continue to be complicit in nearly everything this Governor desires.”

The order stipulates that people must wear masks indoors, or when in line to enter any indoor public space; when obtaining healthcare services; when riding on shared-type of transportation (excluding private vehicles); and when outdoors and unable to socially distance at least six feet. Children under five years of age and people with medical conditions that preclude them from wearing masks are exempt.

Businesses and organizations must also require masks for visitors and employees who face the public, work in food preparation areas or walk or work through common areas where social distancing is impossible.

The order won’t change restrictions for Hays residents, who had already been under a city-imposed mask mandate since mid-July when the Ellis County Commission the declined to opt into Kelly’s prior statewide mask mandate.

A Centers for Disease Control study focused on Kansas county mask mandates showed that after Kelly’s first mask mandate, counties that chose to stay with the mandate saw a 6% decrease in the seven-day rolling average of new cases. In contrast, counties that opted out of the mandate saw a 100% increase, or doubling, in that same rate.

The study, however, only tracked data between June 1 and Aug. 23.