Atchison County Commission Vice-chairman Eric Noll’s second attempt to strike down Gov. Laura Kelley’s recent mandated executive order regarding face masks in public to lower the pandemic spread died again within a week.
Noll made the motion during an afternoon meeting on July 7 following the Atchison County commissioners’ discussion and consultation with health officials and County Counselor Patrick Henderson during a morning workshop. Both sessions were virtual gatherings.
“The burden of proof has not been met,” Noll said of the earlier consultation. “Gov. Kelly’s guidelines and the recommendations of the county’s health officials do not meet findings to determine the order is in the best interest of the citizens in the county.”
Chief Health Officer Lori Forge, RN, Director Wesley Lanter, emergency management, Chairman Jack Bower and Commissioner Henry W. “Bill” Pohl were silent. Then after time passed, Bower declared the motion dead by lack of a second.
It was during the morning workshop when Forge and Lantevirtually visited with commissioners.
Lanter said the recommendation is to extend Phase 3.5 of the county’s COVID-19 reopening plan for another two weeks.
Noll asked if there was any wording in the county’s plan about the executive order effective July 3.
Lanter said there was not, but it emphasizes hand hygiene like the use of sanitizers, hand washing and not touching the face unless hands are clean.
Forge thanked commissioners for allowing the executive order to stand the week prior.
“When you tell people they have to do something it becomes a huge deal,” Forge said of the governor’s order regarding facial coverings.
Bower said he doesn’t understand why the issue of wearing a face mask is so politicized.
Noll disagreed and made a reference to several neighboring counties that have decided not to engage face-mask requirements in accordance with the executive order.
Bower told Noll his motion to repeal the governor’s mandate from the previous meeting was illegal because the group had not formally consulted with all local health officials.
Commissioners were all present for a budget workshop on July 6 and all adhered to the face mask requirement. Noll referred to the workshop and said he noticed all the commissioners handled their masks and faces to make adjustments. He added there wasn’t any sanitizer in the room for them to use. Noll said he believes it is a finding of no health benefit and said if the masks are such a cure-all there wouldn’t be a problem.
Forge reasoned that now it is known that facial coverings are an effective measure to lower the spread of COVID-19, and without the mandate she is afraid the number of cases would grow.
“Isn’t it worth something to know the mask is something that will protect you?” Forge asked. “Your mask protects me. My mask protects you.”