Finney County passes resolution requiring masks

Meghan Flynn
Dr. Rachel Svaty addresses the Finney County Commission earlier this month on a mask mandate as cases continue to rise in the county. Svaty told the commission that counties with a mandate have had a 50% reduction in COVID-19 spread. The commission passed a mask resolution on Tuesday.

Face coverings are now required in Finney County.

The Finney County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution requiring the wearing of face coverings in the county at a special commission meeting Tuesday.

The resolution passed 4-1, with Commissioner Lon Pishny dissenting.

It went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

At the meeting, the commission discussed Gov. Laura Kelly’s Executive Order 20-68 requiring face coverings and the three options for responding to it.

Robert Reece, Finney County administrator, said that in general the executive order establishes a face covering protocol, a guideline, for counties that opted out of Executive Order 20-52 in July.

Compared to the city of Garden City’s ordinance requiring the wearing of face coverings, there are a few differences, Reece said. First, unlike the city’s ordinance, there is no exemption for those attending a faith- or worship-based service, and second, it runs until the end of the year and is subject to being terminated earlier or extended at the state level.

The executive order also allow local authorities to determine appropriate enforcement actions, Reece said.

The three options the commissioners discussed were to opt out of the executive order; do nothing and let the order take effect; or opt out of the executive order and implement their own protocol.

First, the commission voted on the option to opt out of the executive order.

It failed with a 1-4 vote, with Pishny in favor of opting out.

Pishny said he is not in favor of the executive order for several reasons.

One reason is that it says people have to wear masks inside a public space or in line to enter a public space and in outdoor public spaces even where there is the ability to socially distance by 6 feet, Pishny said.

His other reasons were that the executive order runs until the end of 2020 and that it is a mandate to wear a face covering.

“It’s still, in my opinion, a mandate for face coverings or wearing masks,” he said. “I just simply have difficulty with that.”

Commissioner Larry Jones said he had to vote against opting out of the order because of the increase in cases the county is experiencing and how COVID-19 is affecting hospitals.

Next the commission voted on taking no action and allowing the governor’s order to go into effect.

That failed 2-3, with Commissioners Duane Drees and Dave Jones voting in favor of the move.

Finally, the commission voted on opting out of the governor’s executive order and implementing their own resolution.

That move passed 4-1, with Pishny again dissenting.

Reece said the resolution is a hybrid of the governor’s executive order and is similar to that of the city of Garden City.

“It puts the Board of County Commissioners in charge of this face covering (requirement) county-wide, only in those incorporated cities that do not have ... any type of a mask ordinance in place,” he said. “It does not conflict with the city's current ordinance and still provides what I'm hearing today is a propensity to try and embrace this to cause perhaps a change in some of the statistics that we've been seeing.”

The resolution does not affect Garden City’s ordinance while it is in place, Reece said.

Also, like Garden City’s ordinance and unlike the governor’s order, the resolution makes an exemption for requiring face coverings while at faith-based or worship services.

It also allows people to not wear face coverings while in public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, as long as they are able to maintain a 6-foot distance at all times between individuals.