Provider letter to the Marion County Board of Commissioners

This weekend, the Marion County Board of Commissioner’s, who also serve as the Board of Health, received an email with a letter from local health care providers in Newton and Marion County. The letter was written on Veteran’s Day last week asking for a mask mandate to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since the time of the letter being written, the cases had risen even higher by 40 cases and there has been an additional death from COVID-19 in Marion County. The email and attached letter were sent by Tianna Gaines, APRN, or Marion.

November 11, 2020

To: Marion County Commission/Board of Health – Kent Becker, Dianne Novak, Randy Dallke, Dave Crofoot, Jonah Gehring

From: Newton and Marion County Physicians, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners

Dear Marion County Commission/Board of Health,

As medical providers in Marion County and Newton, we are writing to ask you to pass a mask mandate for Marion County; similar to that of Harvey County, in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that this has been presented by Dr. Hodson previously in July; however, as our numbers continue to climb at an exponential rate, as medical providers caring for residents of Marion county communities we have come together and ask you to reconsider a mask mandate for Marion County.

As you are aware, Marion County has had a total of 309 cases as of 11/11/20, 119 of which have been new cases in the past 10 days alone (11/2-11/11). Current active cases are 109 per the Marion County Health Department dashboard. Therefore, 38.5% of total Covid cases in Marion County have occurred in the last 10 days since the pandemic began in March! Also, Marion County currently has an 18.52% percent positivity rate per the KDHE updates. Marion County has been at community spread for several months, which means we do not know the source for many cases which makes contact tracing more challenging and confirms we have cases that are not being identified.

We are writing to ask you to pass a mask order requiring masks or cloth face coverings in Marion County for indoor public spaces and for outdoor public spaces when 6 feet of distancing cannot be maintained. The science is clear that masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19, the worst pandemic since 1918, and strong leadership is required to protect our citizens and our economy. We also ask you consider limiting mass gatherings to that of 30 people or less. The except including those of business establishments, church services, funerals, school attendance. Which again, masks would be mandated. We also asks that restaurants and bars provide dining/service options at the required 6 foot distancing since, and that staff wear masks. As medical providers of Marion County and Newton, we ask that you pass this order to protect our communities and decrease the number of our friends, family, and neighbors that will experience severe illness or death due to COVID-19.

We believe it’s important to recognize that increased cases have occurred, and as a result the increase in hospitalizations. Currently Sedgwick County ICU beds of 208 are at full capacity, and Hutchinson as well. This has a domino effect to outlying hospitals absorbing overflow for medical patients and the surge of COVID admits. Therefore, limiting availability of higher-level of care transfers for our local communities at local facilities. In some instances, the closest available critical care bed may be several hours across the state. These increases will not occur simultaneously due to the time it can take for COVID-19 to cause severe illness or death. As wearing a mask is best done for prevention, we urge you to consider the increase in cases as more than sufficient reason to pass this order. We CAN NOT wait until there are more hospitalizations (local facilities are near capacity already) nor should we wait until there are more deaths.

As medical providers, we respect science and data and always strive to use scientific evidence when we make decisions about protecting the health of our patients. While there were initially some conflicting recommendations about the utility of masks in the non-healthcare setting, we better understand how this disease is transmitted and a growing body of research demonstrates the immense value of wearing masks in public. COVID-19 is unusual in its ability to spread often from symptomless people. Any of us could feel perfectly fine and be spreading the disease, only to show symptoms 48 hours later. The ability of COVID-19 to spread from symptomless people is one reason the pandemic has become as severe as it has. If the virus only spread once people were ill, it would be much easier to isolate ill people and stop the spread. Wearing a mask when we otherwise feel fine can prevent us from being symptomless spreaders.

We urge you to pass a mask order for Marion County during this COVID-19 pandemic. The time is now as cases in Marion and Harvey County are increasing at a faster rate than ever. Masks are a cheap and effective intervention that can keep businesses open and thriving, protect employees, and make our community safer so schools can reduce remote learning with the overall goal to continue holding in-person classes. We do not believe that masks are any type of political statement, but rather a key public health tool (combined with hand washing, distancing, staying home when you’re sick, and contact tracing) to protect our communities from COVID-19. Wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself, but it’s about protecting each other and protecting Marion County and surrounding communities.

Thank you for your service as our County Commissioners and our Board of Health. We are available for any additional testimony or questions you may have about wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

Marion County and Newton Physicians, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, and Physician Assistants

Don Hodson, MD

Charles Craig, MD

Amanda Baxa, MD

Randolph Whitley, MD

Jennifer Scott Koontz, MD

Sam Akidiva, MD

Jessica Brozek, MD

Doyle Detweiler, MD

Stephanie Gibson, MD

Abhijeet Kadam, MD

Roberta Loeffler, MD

Caroline Reusser, MD

Scott Pigg, MD

Doyle Detweiler, MD

Tiana Gaines, APRN

Alysha Haines, APRN

Tracy Grafton, APRN

Karen Lehman, APRN

Tammi Werner, APRN

Rex Wittman, PA

Christian Cox, PA

Julie Deering, APRN

Anda Entz, APRN

Tarina Gfeller, APRN

Lacey Anderson, APRN

Shawna Johnson, APRN

Gail Boaldin, APRN