Harvey County Commissioner: 'Let me be clear. I do not support a mask mandate at this time'

Chad Frey
The Kansan

On a day that the Harvey County Health Department reported a new COVID-19 death, several people made their way to the Harvey County Commission meeting to plead with the commission to not consider a mask mandate as case numbers and CDC guidelines change. 

The Harvey County Commission has not considered a new mask mandate, despite new recommendations by the Harvey County Health Department and the Center For Disease Control.

"The CDC changes like the wind," said TImothy Conner, who spoke to the commission asking them to not consider a mask mandate. 

There was no mandate on the agenda. However, the Harvey County Health Department issued new facial covering guidance last week — mirroring the CDC guidelines that came out last week. That guidance recommends the wearing of facial coverings in areas of substantial spread. Harvey County is classified as a substantial spread county. 

Harvey County reported 35 cases, two hospitalizations and one death in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 20 cases and zero deaths. Throughout the pandemic it has reported 3,797 cases and 72 deaths.

The county commission, which also serves as the county board of health, did not consider an new facial covering orders — and will likely not do so in the near future. 

"Let me be clear. I do not support a mask mandate at this time," said commissioner Randy Hague. 

Hague told the commission, and those in attendance, that infection rates would have be "worse" before he would consider such an action. He told public commentors who were concerned about the issue for schools to go to school boards, which he said has the "ultimate decision" in schools. 

New guidance for schools was released by the Kansas Department of Education and Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week — recommending the use of facial coverings indoors by all students. 

The largest school district in Harvey County, Newton USD 373, has not issued new guidelines or requirements for students for the 2021-22 school year, which is set to start on August 12. The Board of Education did call a special meeting Aug. 3, however COVID-19 precautions were not on the agenda The board will meet for a regular meeting August 9.

At this time the district is recommending, but not requiring,  the use of facial coverings.