City mask ordinance extended another 30 days

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Local businesses are encouraging patrons to either wear masks or require them to, such as The Corner on Main, left, and Ascension Via Christi Home Medical, both next door to each other in the 300 block of N. Main Street. The city commission voted Tuesday to extend the mask mandate for 30 days.

Garden City's face covering ordinance was extended again.

The Garden City Commission approved another 30-day extension to its face covering ordinance at its regular commission meeting Tuesday.

It was approved with by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Manny Ortiz and Roy Cessna dissenting.

The ordinance was originally approved at the city's Nov. 17 regular meeting and was designed to expire after 30 days unless extended by a majority vote of the commission prior to its expiration.

It has since been extended at the commission's December, January and now February meetings.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, spoke in favor of the extension. She said data shows that the requirement has helped reduce the increase of COVID-19 cases.

The ordinance went into effect when the county was at its peak with hospitalizations, positive cases and positivity rate, Drees said. It took about four weeks to see the effect of the ordinance due to the two-week incubation period of the coronavirus and how high the county's peak was.

"At the end of 2020 we began to see significant decreases in the numbers of individuals hospitalized, which has continued into 2021 with our most recent being an average of only 12.3 the week of Jan. 18-24," she said.

Typically it takes about a month of active precautions in a community to see the impact on hospitalizations, Drees said.

"That pretty well lines up to about that month as you then see that beginning to decrease up until the most recent data of hospitalizations," she said. "The last day on there is Jan. 25, it looks around that Jan.14 is when you really started to see that marked decrease."

Steve Karlin, USD 457 superintendent believes there is some correlation between the ordinance and the number of positive COVID-19 cases within the school district.

"I don't think I can say definitively that that's what it is, but I think two significant things happened about the middle of November — one is the mask requirement went into effect, the other is we went into remote learning," he said.

Karlin said it's important to keep students in school and the ordinance has helped as the majority of contact tracing from student and staff COVID-19 positive cases came from the community.

"When you consider that kind of the two week incubation period of this I think if this would have just been a reflection on the remote learning, I think we very likely could have seen a spike start again by the middle to third week of January and we have not experienced that yet to this point," he said.

Commissioner Manny Ortiz said he was not in favor of the ordinance because it's hard to make a decision on something that is not foolproof.

"There's just a lot of holes in this mandate that I'm not for," he said. "I think we as people are smart enough to do what we can to help out."