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Golden Belt counties opt out of mask mandate
Russell County has had no confirmed cases
KDHE contact tracing

No counties in the Golden Belt have chosen to enforce the mask or face covering requirements outlined in Governor Laura Kelly’s executive order that went into effect July 3. In opting out of the stricter requirements for masks in public places, counties urged residents to voluntarily follow healthy guidelines.

Barton County reported its 58th confirmed positive COVID-19 case on Wednesday and four more cases on Thursday. The first confirmed case was on March 30.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its preliminary numbers Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere in central Kansas, Ellis County has had 35 confirmed cases, Ellsworth County 11, Ness County 4, Pawnee County 4, Rice County 4, Rush County 2 and Stafford County 1.

Counties with the highest number of cases are Wyandotte, 2,728 with 85 deaths, Johnson 2,488 with 91 deaths, Ford 2,016 with 10 deaths, Sedgwick 1,750 with 28 deaths and Finney 1,584 with 10 deaths.

Counties with zero confirmed cases are Decatur, Greeley, Lincoln, Rawlins, Russell, Wallace and Wichita.

What others are reporting

Each county health department chooses how much information it will release. The Great Bend Tribune checked area websites and found the following:

Rice County

April 23, Rice County Health Department announced the county had identified its first confirmed positive case of COVID-19. The case involved a female in her early twenties, without known underlying health conditions. Her contacts would be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

On May 13: “The Rice County Health Department announces a new case of coronavirus disease attributed to Rice County. The new case involves a man in his early twenties who has not been hospitalized. He is an employee of the prison, and likely contracted the virus due to widespread COVID-19 cases among staff and inmates there. The case belongs to Rice County because the young man’s permanent address is here. Rice County Health Department Administrator and Health Officer Marci Detmer wants to inform the communities in Rice County that they are not in increased danger from COVID-19 due to this case. The individual has not visited Rice County in more than a month.”

"The prison" referenced was not identified.

On July 3, Rice County Commissioners passed Resolution 13-2020 stating the wearing of face masks or face coverings in Rice County is not mandatory. Citizens are encouraged to continue taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including the frequent washing of hands, social distancing of at least six feet when possible, and the voluntary wearing of masks or face coverings.

Stafford County

On July 1 the Stafford County Commissioners voted not to mandate masks for the county. There has been one confirmed case in the county, back on March 28.

Pawnee County

Since announcing the first confirmed cases in Pawnee County, the Pawnee County Health Department has posted a notice that future cases will not be announced. The information for all counties is available on the KDHE COVID-19 Resource Page, On July 3 the Pawnee County Commission voted not to legally mandate use of masks or face coverings in Pawnee County. The first case was a Larned male who was recovering at home and was reported June 2; the second case was confirmed on June 3 with no further information.

Rush County

On July 2 the Rush County Board of Health opted out of the governor’s executive order requiring masks or other face coverings in public. A resolution states, “While Rush County believes that wearing face coverings helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained, it will not be required.”

Rush County had tested 126 by June 26 and had no confirmed cases. Their first positive case was confirmed June 29.

Ness County

The Ness County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on July 2. Its resolution stated, “According to statistics maintained by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, updated on July 1 ... Ness County has had a total of four cases of COVID-19 confirmed within the county. It has been approximately one month since a case of COVID-19 has been identified in the county.” The board voted not to implement the more strict facemask order in Gov. Kelly’s upcoming executive order.

Russell County

On July 1, KDHE’s preliminary numbers report showed two positive cases in Russell County. Those numbers have since been revised; Russell County still has no confirmed cases. According to a post from the Russell County Health Department on July 1, “I know people have seen the KDHE website. I can assure you the two cases listed do not live in Russell County. They lived in Russell County years ago, but now live in another county. Why still the Russell County address??? I have no idea. I have been in contact with KDHE and this will be corrected. They say all information on there is preliminary until they get the final reports. Also, Lincoln County has no cases. Their case was almost the same situation – lived somewhere else but still had Lincoln County as their address. So, their case was removed from the map. I am going to have KDHE remove the 2 cases showing for Russell County if they will ever call me back. ...”

The Russell County Health Department, in consultation with the County Board of Health and Russell County Emergency Manager, will not impose any restrictions on businesses or residents of Russell County, effective May 27.