Masks required at county courthouse

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Following a vote Wednesday by the Harvey County Commission, masks will be required at county-owned facilities, including the county courthouse.

The employee policy manual will be updated, and both the employee and public policies will be effective July 10.

Masks will be required wherever social distancing cannot be observed.

The county will observe exemptions to the policy, based on health and mental health concerns. Rental properties at the parks will be exempted.

“I think we will see a lot of compliance,” said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. “There are a lot of patrons wearing masks at the courthouse already, and they ask why our employees are not wearing a mask.”

The county will provide five washable, reusable, masks to employees.

“If we are going to protect the public by masking employees, that is only a 50/50 job. We need to mask up,” said Commissioner Chip Westfall.

The commission struggled with how that would be enforced. An extra sheriff’s deputy may be assigned for security at the courthouse.

The commission chose to exempt the county from an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly that would have required masks to be worn wherever social distancing could not be observed — inside and outside of buildings.

Commissioners, at the time, encouraged local businesses to create their own policies concerning mask usage. On Tuesday the city of Newton chose to explore a resolution encouraging mask usage while not requiring enforcement or fines.

“I think every business in the county should do this, and we left it up to them,” Hague said. “... Most places I have talked to that have mask requirements in their facilities claim they have very little pushback. They either don’t come in, or come in wearing a mask.”