County extends mask order, without expiration

Chad Frey
The Harvey County Commission on Monday approved extending a mask order until such time that the order is rescinded by the commission with the consultation of the health department and the county medical officer.

The public comment section of the Harvey County Commission was divided equally on Monday on the issue of wearing masks and the existence of a county health ordinance requiring the wearing of facial coverings when social distancing cannot be observed.

The commission had passed multiple extensions to that ordinance since it was created in July. The most recent extension was set to expire Monday, and the commission was asked by the Harvey County Health Department and county public health officer Dr. Doyle Detwiller to consider extending the ordinance.

“The medical community in this community remains united in terms of the recommendation of continuing the mask mandate,” said Matthew Schmidt, CEO of Health Ministries. “The recommendation from the CDC says that this is the most effective thing we can do to mitigate [COVID-19]. ... It is the single most powerful thing we can do to keep our economy going, keep our kids in school and keep things moving.”

The commission, which serves as the county board of health, agreed with the medical professionals who spoke on Monday and its own doctor and health department.

On a motion by Commissioner Chip Westfall, seconded by Commissioner Randy Hague, the commission extended the mask ordinance until rescinded by commission action with consultation from the county health officer.

“I have had people email me and tell me that if I do this, they will not vote for me again,” Hague said. “If my not getting reelected saves one life, it is worth it.”

Retiring Commissioner Ron Krehbiel was not present at the meeting. The action to extend the mask order passed 2-0.