If you haven’t been paying close attention you may be a little behind on the rapidly changing requirement on wearing mask in Wichita. 

Last evening in a specially called meeting, the Sedgwick County Commission voted to “strongly recommend” rather than make mandatory Gov. Laura Kelly’s requirement order making mask wearing in Kansas mandatory.  Not happy with the commissioner’s vote, Wichita Mayor Whipple has called a special meeting for 2 p.m. today (Fri., July 3) to discuss and vote on a proposed ordinance mandating the use of masks and face coverings within the City of Wichita limits. 

While attendance at the meeting will not be allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the city has established several ways for Wichita citizens to participate.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Cox cable channel 7, Wichita.gov and the City’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/wichitacity7).

Individuals can also be heard on the ordinance by emailing comments or questions to councilmeeting@wichita.gov.  Make sure to provide your name, address and the topic you’re speaking on.   To ensure comments are included, all emails must be submitted by noon on Friday, July 3. 

Also, if residents wish to speak to Council during the meeting, they can go to Century II, 225 W Douglas Street, where the City has prepared viewing rooms to accommodate social distancing and other preventative safety measures for residents to interact remotely with Council.

On June 4, the Kansas Legislature adopted House Bill 2016 which reduced Gov. Kelly’s power to implement executive orders in regard to COVID-19.  With that new law in place, the governor’s authority was severely limited and all ordinance issued by her no longer carried the letter of the law, but were recommended actions for counties to follow.  The law passed the authority to implement the ordinances to the 105 county commissions across the state. 

While many of the media were suggesting that the mask order announced on Tuesday, and released officially on Thursday, was the law, The Community Voice was clear in communicating implementation of the ordinance was up to county commissioners and suggested waiting to see what commissions chose to do across the state. 

As was expected, the Sedgwick County Commission voted not to make Kelly’s order mandatory.   The commission had previously passed a resolutions strongly encouraging the wearing of mask and their vote on Thursday evening reconfirmed that position. 

Those voting in the majority said it was important to leave mask wearing requirements up to business owners and after meeting earlier that day with a coalition of business owners felt that the business community was proactively moving to make sure their employees and customers were safe.  In addition, they cited problems with enforcement of the order. 

Even those supporting the governor’s mandate had some concerns with the order as written, but were willing to take a few days to further clarify the order and to meet again next week to possibly consider adopting the order with some revisions. 

If the Wichita City Council votes to implement an mandatory mask ordinance, it will only apply to business and public accommodations inside the city limits.  Other cities in Sedgwick County, such as Derby, Park City and Bellaire can still follow the county’s “strongly recommended” rule. 

In addition, event with the county’s “strongly recommended” rule,  business owners can implement mandatory mask rules that individuals must follow or leave the premises immediately. 

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