Jun 30, 2020 4:27 PM

New health order to be written, masks recommended, not mandated

Posted Jun 30, 2020 4:27 PM

By NICK GOSNELL

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Reno County Health Officer Nick Baldetti is going to be writing a new Health Order, to be put into effect once the language of Governor Laura Kelly's Executive Order is clear. That health order will not mandate mask usage in Reno County, though it is still recommended.

"I think that's a good plan," said Commission Chair Ron Sellers. "I agree with that plan. My only comment is that, in my opinion, the citizens of Reno County should do all they can to help our Health Officer keep the numbers of the virus in Reno County down and I think that can be helped by wearing masks where it's appropriate."

Baldetti says the science on mask wearing is clear.

"Mask use is a fundamental public health practice that can mitigate the spread of any aerosolized body," Baldetti said. "It doesn't have to be fancy. It isn't about the viral body spreading through how tight knit the mask is itself or what have you. What it's about is simply creating a barrier between the respiratory pathway and the expulsion of the aerosolized droplets. That's all it is."

It's supposed to keep you from spreading virus to others, not to keep them from spreading to you. With that said, Reno County District Attorney Tom Stanton made clear he doesn't have the resources to bring civil actions against those who fail to wear masks.

"Looking at responses, just to the rumors of this order would indicate that there are a plethora of Reno County residents who will refuse to follow this order," Stanton said. "That's not why I'm here, to discuss whether they should or shouldn't, my point is, it appears that's going to happen. There's no way for us to really enforce in the manner and way which we would have several months ago."

Stanton just doesn't have the time and resources to chase down those cases. If a business were to post signage requiring masks, there are other statutes, like trespassing that could potentially apply, if a person were to refuse to mask up and refuse to leave, but mask wearing compliance alone, apart from that defiance, is a civil act, according to the new statute passed by the Legislature during the special session.