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County may challenge mask order

Staff writer

People throughout Kansas have a few days until Governor Laura Kelley’s order that masks be worn when they leave their homes, but Marion County may challenge the state by refusing to abide by the order.

Delores Stika doesn’t see COVID-19 as a major issue on a local scale. A bigger problem for the Marion resident is people who have respiratory trouble.

“Some people can’t do it because of their breathing,” she said. “I have a grandson who can’t wear them because his breathing is off. I don’t think Marion is in bad shape anyway. People are obeying stuff.”

Some county commissioners appear to be in agreement about masks not being necessary in the county. Jonah Gehring and Kent Becker both said Tuesday that they did not support the governor’s order.

“It would be a strict HIPPA violation to ask people why they are not wearing a mask,” Gehring said, making the mandate difficult to enforce.

Gehring wears a mask when he leaves Marion County but not within the area. He said he was fine with people not wearing masks.

Commissioner Randy Dallke also said he opposed enforcing the order but thought everyone should wear masks. Commissioner Dave Crofoot was in favor of the order. Dianne Novak was absent from the meeting and did not comment.

County health nurse Diedre Serene has requested a special meeting to discuss the matter with commissioners and counselor Brad Jantz next week.

The statewide order becomes active Friday, and Kansans will be required to wear masks in public in any situation where six feet of social distance can’t be maintained.

That doesn’t mean putting the order into practice is feasible, Marion police chief Clinton Jeffrey said.

“I think it’s going to be next to impossible to enforce,” he said. “I have a personal opinion on it, but I’m also doing whatever orders are set out.”

Jeffrey noted that while the decision was above his level, he understood both sides of the argument.

“You bump up against constitutional rights,” he said. “You have both sides of the thing. You have public safety and public health, and then whether it’s constitutional to force somebody to wear a mask.”

The subject comes down to trusting people who have more knowledge about COVID-19 and safety practices, said former resident Shane Hayes, who was visiting in town.

“If they say to do it, do it,” said Hayes, a Marion County native now living in Hilton Head, South Carolina. “They must know something we don’t.”

Tampa resident Rita Brunner doesn’t have a problem with the order and already keeps herself prepared.

“I’ve got it in my purse,” she said. “I don’t mind it.”

Masks in Marion can be picked up at Marion Auto Supply, Dollar General, or Carlsons’ Grocery; at Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy or Hillsboro Hardware; at Peabody Hardware or Peabody Market; and at Keith’s Foods in Goessel.

Stika doesn’t wear a mask all the time but does wear one in high-traffic areas like Walmart.

“I don’t agree with it,” she said. “I think it should be everybody’s choice.”

Last modified July 1, 2020

 

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