By NICK GOSNELL
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Reno County Health Officer Nick Baldetti gave county commissioners acting as the Board of Health a preview of his intent in writing a county health order that will come out later this week.
"I would recommend that we don't set a mass gathering limit, a specific, arbitrary number," Baldetti said. "Instead, we continue to maintain social distance where applicable, that six-foot radius and then, for those gatherings and events that have the potential of having greater than 100, that the conveners and facilitators of those gatherings consult with the Reno County Health Department for best practice advice and protocols moving forward."
Baldetti won't mandate masks, either, though he was wearing one at Wednesday's meeting and explained why.
"It is not an aspect of protecting myself from another," Baldetti said. "Instead, it's the opposite, in that I am protecting you from me. For instance, you see that I'm wearing a mask today. Right now, that's because I have a family member who is getting tested and we're awaiting test results. Out of an abundance of caution, I'm wearing a mask to try and limit potential exposure, although we're practicing social distancing within this room right now."
As for individual businesses and the measures they choose to take or not take, the commissioners suggested that business owners just need to be informed of the best practices determined for their individual business sectors by the Reno County Economic Recovery Task Force and that Health Department officials and those with the Chamber be prepared to answer any questions owners and operators might have on the matter.
"What we've done very well in Reno County is adhere to those social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices and upper respiratory etiquette specifically and taken it seriously enough, in terms of the guidelines set forth and the recommendation and best practices," Baldetti said. "We stymied at every turn a real, robust communal spread, like we've seen in other counties. Moving forward, that isn't to say that we don't have it, nor are we not going to have it. In fact, it's almost a surety that we will have COVID-19 activity, at minimum, throughout the duration of this year."
With that said, all Baldetti and the commission are looking for right now is an order to get them past the 4th of July weekend. He initially talked about bringing it up short of the holiday, but commissioners recommended that if there need to be restrictions for the 4th, that people know about them as soon as they can.