Sen. Alicia Straub (R-Ellinwood) reminds constituents that bills can be viewed online. “You all can go to KSlegislature.org to look up information on bills and see how all of your representatives and senators voted on those bills.”
Sen. Alicia Straub (R-Ellinwood) said a 4-H meeting she attended in Ellinwood recently was halted after she and her children refused to wear masks. She shared her concerns Thursday at a Legislative Update held at the Great Bend Events Center.
“Last month in Ellinwood, Kansas, in a church-owned facility, my children and I, along with some other parents and their children, were kicked out of a 4-H meeting. The meeting was called off and we were all sent home because I, as your state senator, refused to put a mask on, and refused to put a mask on my children. Mind you, at that time, we had no statewide mask mandate, no county mask mandate, no city, no church mask mandate. Somehow, Kansas State University has taken it upon themselves to think that they have the power to put a mask on our children across the state.”
Straub noted that K-State’s Rock Springs Ranch, just south of Junction City, is “still trying to require masks on our children outdoors this summer. The registration for that camp (in June) is still saying that they’re going to require kids to wear masks for most activities where they can’t maintain social distancing, even though all of you and I both know that the CDC has been back and forth, up and down, crisscross on the mask orders and what’s effective and what’s not,” she said.
“Enough. Just, enough is enough. We know that COVID does not affect children, that it primarily affects the elderly or those with a compromised immune system. And this is actually not just detrimental to the health of our children, but to their future. So, I need your help on this. If you all wouldn’t mind, call your local Extension office, call the state 4-H Extension office, and voice your concern. Somehow we’ve got to get the attention of Kansas State University,” Straub said.
She did say that K-State has since issued a new policy asking people to follow local guidelines. That’s how it should have been from the beginning, she added.
“I just wanted to bring it to everybody’s attention that this happened, and this happened in Ellinwood Kansas, of all places, and it happened with 4-H programs,” she continued. “Your tax dollars, your local tax dollars your state tax dollars, your federal tax dollars go to pay for these programs. In Barton County last year, the county Extension budget was $993,000 and that’s a joint budget and district budget between Barton and Ellis counties. (Of the) $993,000, $553,000 of that comes from local dollars between Ellis and Barton County, local tax dollars.”
She urged those who share her concern to take action.
“You have the voice, you have the power. Let’s stand up and let these universities, and anyone else who’s trying to take power that’s not theirs, stand up and let them know that we don’t want this. We don’t want this for our kids and we don’t want this for our future. So that’s one of the major things I fought all session, in fact, even had a proviso added to the budget, which I ended up voting against the budget because it increased spending.”
The proviso was removed by a line-item veto by Gov. Laura Kelly, she said.
Later in the meeting, an audience member said she agreed that masks aren’t needed outdoors but she took exception to Straub’s comment that COVID-19 doesn’t affect children. She described a friend’s 18-year-old grandson who was very healthy before contracting COVID-19. He was intensive care for four days.
“He is still under physical therapy. He may have permanent heart damage, and may not be able to participate in athletics in college,” the woman said. “So I just would caution you, don’t state that COVID does not affect children.”
“Thank you for your comments and maybe I should clarify, I’m not saying that COVID doesn’t affect children in any sense,” Straub responded. “But (I’m concerned with) the overreaction that different organizations have taken, including government, in forcing and putting these mandates on families to mask their children.”
Straub said her 9-year-old has a severe peanut allergy and “just cannot breathe in a mask.”
Straub said she does not fault anyone who chooses to wear a mask.
“What we need is freedom to choose, as Americans – not just as Americans, but also as Kansans – we have that freedom. It’s in our Constitution and it has been violated, over and over and over again, over the past year.”
She added that other state and national actions, such as closing schools, ignored multiple scientific studies that were available as early as April of 2020. She cited an article in Reuters that referred to 16 scientific studies on H1N1 influenza and SARS (SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19). “Those research studies show that closing schools and doing those things was absolutely detrimental to the health and welfare of children.” That information was available but, “we still as a country or a state chose to blindly follow these mandates that these people honestly can’t even back up with scientific research. ... So that’s my argument there. I don’t fault anybody who wants to wear a mask, and I’m sorry if any child or any adult for that matter was adversely affected by COVID, but I still think that it’s a personal freedom issue. And that’s what I’m going to stand on.”
A response from the local Extension office
The Great Bend Tribune received this response Thursday afternoon from Donna Krug, district director of the Cottonwood Extension District.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic the Cottonwood Extension District has carefully followed the protocols outlined by our K-State Research and Extension Administration. Masks were still a requirement at our face-to-face meeting on April 5th. There was also a Zoom link shared for participants at that time. Effective May 5, 2021, local Extension units were notified by K-State Research and Extension that they should follow the COVID-19 protocols of the prevailing county or city health authority. In most situations, this will be the protocols of the county public health authority.”