LARNED — Pawnee County residents are now required to wear masks under certain conditions, following the approval of a county-wide public health order by the County Commission Monday afternoon. Commissioners adopted the order in response to Gov. Laura Kelly’s Nov. 18 executive order requiring the wearing of masks in indoor spaces.
The county order passed by a 2-1 margin with Commissioners Deborah Lewis and Philip Hammeke voting for it, and Commissioner Chair Bob Rein voting against. Rein expressed concern over the enforceability of the order.
The vote followed a meeting earlier in the day with the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee to discuss the current COVID situation.
Commissioners previously opted out of the governor’s first mask order issued July 2.
The county health order mandates:
• The wearing of masks within Pawnee County during such periods as the local health officer places the county in either the Orange or Red Category of the COVID Risk Assessment Matrix.
• Household member(s) of individuals with a positive COVID-19 test and those identified through contact tracing that were within six feet for more than 10 minutes of the person that tests positive following written guidance from Kansas Department of Health and Environment will be subject to quarantine. An exception in the order states that no person shall be quarantined by virtue of contact tracing where both parties had on face coverings throughout the contact in question.
All counties that previously opted out are subject to the governor’s new mask mandate unless counties adopt their own local mandate, said County Attorney Doug McNett. “The options discussed today by the commissioners were to simply allow the Governor’s order to remain in place as is, to opt out or to adopt their own mask mandate.”
Commissioners moved to link the implementation of the governor’s restrictions to the county’s previously adopted COVID Risk Assessment Matrix. According to McNett, the risk matrix takes into consideration local new case trends (excluding the state hospital and prison), local hospital capacity and school absentee rates.
“Under the adopted public health order, whenever Pawnee County reaches Levels Orange or Red, a public mask mandate will be in place,” McNett said. “No local mandate will be in place when the community is determined to be in the Green or Yellow risk levels.”
Pawnee County is currently on Level Red of the COVID Risk Assessment Matrix.
He added the concept is similar to the system utilized for local burn bans. Pawnee County has been in Level Red on the risk matrix for several consecutive weeks.
Additionally Commissioners confirmed their previous decision to exclude parties identified through contact tracing from quarantine if both parties have masks on throughout the contact in question. “A community partner had asked the commission to consider excluding persons from quarantine if either party wore a mask during the contact in question,” said McNett.