City commissioners voted to extend Emporia’s mask mandate until Dec. 22 with added language matching Lyon County’s recently-passed public health order during joint study and action sessions Wednesday evening.
City Attorney Christina Montgomery recommended the additions so as to better promote “uniformity” and “collective understanding” of health requirements throughout the area, saying the county’s updated order included stricter language in some areas.
The majority of changes included in Wednesday’s new mask mandate involved details on social distancing.
“Under the City’s [current] order, the City required people inside an indoor public space [to] wear a mask if they could not maintain six feet of social distance,” Montgomery said. “[The county order] states that any time you are inside or in line to enter an indoor public space, a mask is required... It removes that six feet of social distancing provision.
“Our exemptions were almost identical to the county’s exemptions [in the first place] for persons five and younger, people with medical conditions, etc.”
Montgomery additionally informed commissioners that Emporia would fall under any orders currently in effect through the county should they allow the city’s mask mandate to expire, causing some to recommend the continuation of monthly reviews on the matter. At this time, Lyon County’s new public health order is set to run through Jan. 14 unless modified.
“If we were to let [the mask mandate] expire, and we just went with the county, we can’t really predict what the county is going to do,” Commissioner Susan Brinkman said. “We’re just a city within the county. Four weeks from now, [the county] may choose to let [their order] roll off in the best interest of all their citizenry, not just our community. Then, we would have to start this process all over again. I’d rather not abdicate our public health of Emporians to just the county commission.”
Wednesday’s vote came after commissioners received the latest case information from Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director Jennifer Millbern, who recommended extreme caution over the next few weeks.
With staffing issues already forcing the stoppage of local contact tracing services, Millbern said she was seeing an increased trend in delayed COVID-19 tests results, as well, with response time now ranging anywhere between four to as many as nine days.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Millbern said. “That’s where we’re heading. That’s all indications.”
In closing the discussion, Commissioner Rob Gilligan encouraged community members to take recent trends seriously, stating it would take an effort on the part of all individuals to see positive change in case metrics.
“Hopefully, we’ll start seeing a downward trend by mid-December,” Gilligan said. “That comes with the community responding appropriately by wearing a mask and socially distancing and not continuing to have gatherings.”
A full copy of Lyon County’s current health order can be viewed online at lyoncounty.org/index/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Public-Health-Order-11-6-2020.pdf.
During the meetings, commissioners also:
Approved a maintenance agreement with the Emporia Public Library for 2021 in the amount of $39,550.20
Approved a new contract with Emporia Main Street allowing the city one voting board appointment and an additional non-voting ex officio member as designated by the City Manager