Commission maintains county mask mandate

The Marion County Board of Commissioners met on Monday afternoon for their regular meeting, and the main topic of discussion was the mask mandate.

While the state’s mandate is set to expire on March 31, Governor Laura Kelly has indicated that she will be extending it due to ongoing cases of COVID-19.

Commissioner Kent Becker stated that he had several people tell him they did not want to have a mask mandate anymore and neighboring counties had gotten rid of theirs, so he felt the county should as well.

Commissioner Randy Dallke expressed his concern that getting rid of the mandate could potentially cause people to let their guard down and cause a repeat of the spikes. But he said he could also understand people using common sense.

Commissioner Dave Mueller asked that the commission hear from Marion County Health Administrator Diedre Serene, since she was hired by the commission to advise on health matters.

“Governor Kelly is probably going to reissue the face coverings. That could change, but if she does reissue that order, it will remain until it is rescinded or until the state of emergency expires. Just within our county, our percent positivity, we are now in the yellow. I want you to be cautious because not as many are being tested because if we even have one that is positive, our rate will go up. I think there are a lot of things that we need to look at—not just that positivity rate and like Randy mentioned, masks have helped. We’ve had a total of 1,024 cases so far. We don’t know how long that immunity lasts. As of now, we’ve had 1,480 total individuals vaccinated out of 11,884. That means 12% are vaccinated and a portion of those only received their shots last week. You aren’t considered fully protected until about two weeks after your booster dose. You need about 50% for herd immunity. We are pretty far from that here in Marion County. I don’t think that it is quite time to let our guard down,” said Serene.

Serene said the county currently stands at two active cases and two hospitalizations, with 24 vital statistics deaths. The county status is in the yellow. The rolling 14-day positivity rate through March 20 is 5.3%. According to Gov. Kelly, Kansas is moving to Phase 5. Every adult in Kansas is encouraged to get vaccinated.

Commissioner Dave Crofoot suggested that the commission maintain the mask mandate in order to support business owners.

Commissioner Jonah Gehring presented some information stating that numbers have both gone up and down in places with mask ordinances. He stated that masks seem to contribute one way or the other to the numbers.

“But we need to listen to our leadership that we appointed,” said Crofoot. “The masks have helped here.”

After more conversation, Becker made a motion to end the mask mandate and Gehring seconded it. Crofoot, Mueller and Dallke voted against it, so the mask mandate remains in place. They will revisit it next week.

Commission Comments

Mueller shared that he felt it was important to continue to move forward in gathering information on having a county administrator and nominated having Gehring assist in this. He asked that the commission give them permission to do this,

“I feel we need the education for this,” agreed Crofoot.

Gehring stated he would be on board for this and felt it would be beneficial. Becker and Dallke agreed that it would be a good idea. Dallke made a motion, Becker seconded, and all agreed.

Mueller also requested a set work session regarding a plan for equipment for Road and Bridge.

“And they are working out of a 1940s shop. There’s a long list we need to get going on, but we need to give him [Engineer Brice Goebel] a chance to prepare so we can go over it,” said Mueller. “Just in light of budget and planning, now is the time to get the information.”

Becker acknowledged the Hillsboro High School basketball team and Coach Darrel Knoll on their 2A state win.

In other business, the commission:

•met in executive session to discuss employee performance. No action was taken.

•approved plans for the new county EMS/Fire building that will be built in Hillsboro. Travis Parmley stated that he was financially responsible when he made decisions and did his best to be wise in all decisions. The commission discussed the plan to move forward preparing the area so everything will be ready for when the building shows up.The commission voted 5-0 to move forward with the plans.

County Clerk Tina Spencer read a statement from the City of Hillsboro that they will do all they can to support Parmley in the building of the new station.