The Lyon County Commission opted to keep the county’s current Public Health Order in lieu of requiring residents to wear masks during a Thursday morning action session. The meeting was held the day before a statewide mandate that would require most Kansans to wear facial coverings in public spaces issued by Gov. Laura Kelly that is set to go into effect 12:01 a.m. Friday.

County Attorney Marc Goodman said that although commissioners did not vote on the matter, the county’s existing health order superseded the governor’s executive order.

The decision, Chairman Rollie Martin said, was based on the fact that the county’s current Public Health Order is not set to expire until July 9 and — at the time of the meeting — the commissioners had not yet seen the verbiage of the governor’s mandate. At this time, the county’s rate of infection has slowed even as a resurgence has been seen around the state.

Commissioners are expected to meet with other county agencies next week to work on the next health order.

Public Health Office Renee Hively told commissioners she endorsed the governor’s executive order as a tool to help mitigate the spread and avoid another shutdown. She recommended people mask up in public when social distancing at least 6-feet apart was not possible.

“We don’t have much left in our toolbox,” she said. “There’s social distancing and mask wearing. Those are the only things we have left until we have a cure. So, it’s prevention. I just ask that you take that into consideration. Those who can wear a mask should wear a mask. Those of us who can wear a mask, we can slow the spread of this.”

Hively said she believed Lyon County’s early mitigation strategies are what helped keep current numbers low. Jennifer Millbern, environmental health director and public health services director, told commissioners that when COVID-19 first appeared locally the major hubs for the disease were businesses. Now, with community spread, it’s harder to pinpoint where people are contracting it and that makes contact tracing difficult.

“It’s not related to the businesses,” she said. “Most of the time it’s related to what they are doing outside of work. Social gatherings, parties, going out to eat at restaurants and bars — that kind of thing.”

Community spread on a wider scale is troubling, she said.

Commissioner Scott Briggs asked what the criteria was for laundering non-disposable cloth masks and Hively said information would be distributed on Lyon County Public Health’s social media and web site. It is also available on the CDC’s web site.

Millbern said it was important to remember the difference between employer-required face masks and cloth face masks.

“When we are wearing cloth face coverings, it’s really to stop our respiratory droplets that potentially can contain virus from being spread in the air,” she said. “When we’re talking about the masks — the face coverings — that’s a bandana, a scarf. Even a dirty face covering is better than no face covering. We are really just trying to stop the spread of the virus from getting airborne.”

Martin said commissioners may call an emergency session if the situation changes to revisit the matter. At this time, however, the commission felt it was not necessary to enforce the full mandate.

“We are still going to be in the gathering of information process,” Martin said. “We just don’t have enough specific information [at this time.]”

The mandate

Kelly’s mandate was signed Thursday morning and released to the public, and is set to remain in place until the order is rescinded or the current statewide state of disaster expires — whichever comes first.

“The last few months have presented many new challenges for Kansans, and all of us want to return to our normal lives and routines,” Kelly said in a written release. “Unfortunately, we have seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across our state and our country. We must act. Viruses don’t stop at county lines. This order doesn’t change where you can go or what you can do. But wearing a mask is a simple and effective way to keep Kansans healthy and keep Kansas open for business.”

As expected, the order would require most Kansans to wear masks when inside any public space — including their workplace — or in situations where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained. Guidance regarding specific places or situations in which masks are required is outlined within the order.


Still, even if the commission had decided to adopt Kelly’s mandate as stated, there would be some difficulties in enforcement.

According to a joint statement released by the Lyon County Attorney’s Office, Emporia Police Department and Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, Wednesday, a violation of the mandate is not a criminal offense.

“A violation of the Governor’s executive order or any other agency’s order concerning the wearing of masks or facial coverings, is NOT a criminal offense,” the statement read. “The public should NOT call 911 or the Emporia Police Department or the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office regarding persons not wearing masks or facial coverings. If anyone has a complaint regarding masks please call 620-208-3741.”

The Gazette spoke to Goodman earlier in the week about possible issues that could arise.

“On the state level, you have state statutes which have to be enacted by the legislature,” Goodman said in an earlier interview. “Those have the full force of law behind them. Below that — administratively — you have these orders. So, if you were ranking them, a state statute is a higher priority than the order, declaration, proclamation, mandate, resolution or whatever word you want to use to describe it.”

“Law enforcement doesn’t have to do it, so I would say it then falls to the health department. They would have to go out and identify who the people are that aren’t wearing a mask and be the controlling arm of this. I don’t even think they have the necessary staff available to do that. As a matter of physical safety, I also don’t think it would be very wise to just go up to people on the street and say, ‘I want your name and address so I can cite you for not wearing a mask.’ It all sounds funny and bit stupid, I know, but we’re a society based on laws. If things aren’t ironed out in some way, I think you’re asking people to enforce something very cumbersome and nearly impossible to enforce.”

Despite all the potential problems moving forward, Goodman said he believes the idea behind the order was made in good faith and with the safety of all Kansans in mind. He hopes community members remain considerate of others moving forward, especially those at higher risk for infection.

“We strongly, strongly, strongly recommend people wear masks in public places regardless of any order or mandate, because the data appears to suggest that they are helping stop the spread,” Goodman said. “Another aspect of that, though, is getting people proper masks and telling them how to properly wear and sanitize them between uses … There are all these back-end aspects of this that people aren’t talking about which could go a long way in stopping some of the arguing and confusion in the long run.”

(17) comments


Aww, it’s so nice to see you Democrat nut jobs are consistent with your need to control others. All leftists (communists, Socialists, etc) love to demand others comply with their idea especially when they are borne out of fear and masked as concern for others.

Lisa Grey

It is confusing to me why people who want businesses open would be offended by wearing a mask. Maybe it's a little uncomfortable, but I am sure that getting this virus or losing loved ones because of the virus is much more uncomfortable. Wearing a mask is such a small and relatively easy thing to do so that our business can be open so that your loved ones can stay healthy, and so that we can all continue living with the comforts that we have grossly become accustomed to. I respect fellow human beings enough to wear a mask if I am going to be in the presence of other people....even to those who don't have the same respect for me and my family. As someone who recently lost a family member, I can tell you that if there is anything that you can do, even if there is only a small chance that it could help save your loved one's life, you will do it! If someone told me standing on my head would help save my loved one, I would do it. People need to stop being so self-centered and close-minded. For the love of each other, for our business owners and businesses (that are NOT Walmart) - wear a mask, use social distancing. We are ALL sacrificing in some way, it is our duty to each other to do so.

Hollowed Ground

Such an abrogation of leadership is shameful. Failure to wear a mask in public is not a criminal offense?? Another shameful abrogation. In 1918, persons who did not wear a mask in public were fined $5, about $85 today. Members of the public, business owners and even elected leaders were all fined alike. That's what we need. A little muscle in the regulations. A little muscle.

Gary Lukert

Your comment means nothing...if you don't use your name. You have no integrity.


Very disappointing. Four months in to this and many have done nothing to keep themselves or others safe. This virus should be gone already but some of us are making sure it never leaves us. We are better than this.


I to am disappointed in our County. It’s such a small thing to ask of people. The complacency and lack of Empathy for others in Lyon County is disappointing to say the least.

Gary Lukert

Remember, our county commission is nearly all REPUBLICANS. And, Most Republicans hold Trump way higher than Jesus Christ, who to them is Radical Liberal Leftist.

Vintage Queen

I agree. At this point in a GLOBAL pandemic, with the US number one for cases and deaths, it shouldn't have to be such an issue to do something so simple to help keep OTHERS safe. OTHER states, counties let their guard down to see cases rise. And least we forget, PEOPLE TRAVEL. Lyon County is NOT in a bubble. People move here, pass through here, from all over. TWO SIMPLE THINGS: wearing a mask in public and social distancing can keep the spread of cases and deaths DOWN. In a pandemic, it would seem our civic and moral duty to do something so simple to not spread to others. Knowing at least 30% can be ASYMPTOMATIC yet can STILL spread to others, is being an anonymous serial killer. Some victims of COVID know where they got it from, a family gathering, a meeting, MANY don't even know who gave it to them and MANY pass along COVID without realizing they ever had it.

You're right, Danno. We SHOULD be better than this.


But this obscure conservative website pretending to be a medical source says that masks are like trying to block a mosquito with a chain link fence. I know actual medical experts have explained why this is not the case, but I instead choose to pull the wool over my eyes, and blindly believe the guy who has the same political agenda as me. Dems are so stupid to believe a mask actually does anything. Oh, and YOU should stop making this political.


I have never posted online a comment - in my life! Until now...

This position our health dept has taken has been confusing, political, and disappointing. One day Hively is on KVOE stating concerns that the community isn't "masking up" and taking the pandemic as seriously as they should and the next suggesting to the commissioners board the community "do the right thing on their own."

I'm disappointed that even in Emporia this issue has become political. Sadly, Americans are NOT doing the right thing when they don't wear masks. Equally sad, that we need to be required to do it! It is a simple task, although not pleasant.

Bottom Line: Where is the responsibility that we have as a civilastion to one another? Even if you don't agree with the science at what point do people feel their "rights" suppressed mankind and the ability to care for each other? Even if only to show support for the thousands who have lost loved ones and are fighting COVID-19, and the professionals working to help us in so many areas. What about the workers in these businesses that are sounded by co-workers who aren't wearing masks and need to work for a living?

I go out once a week. I've worn a mask since Spring Break. Sutherlands and Mark 2 this week: NOT ONE employee wearing a mask or customer. I was the only one.

To think that our numbers are down and we're doing well and immune from the surrounding areas and states is stupidity. We will surge again because sadly, people won't be responsible and the city won't enforce a simple mandate that would serve to only protect our community due to political reasons.

One last thing - I'm sick and tired of the reporting headlines on this locally. WHen we are constantly referred to as our placement (1-10) in the state and that we aren'tas bad as the other counties is just plain- WRONG! Take the population of these counties per individuals infected. We are higher than others in the top 10. You're only look at numbers of infected, not considering the number of people who live in the county PER infected. Just the other day the CDC said we were 1/65 residents. So do the math - our population is much smaller than several of these counties in the top 10. People need to be smart. Protect each other, be safe, show you care - do the few things we have that we know that works. Hopefully, the city will see the importance of this sooner than later.


Stop making this political... and check out this conservative website about how useless wearing a mask is... they are the association of AMERICAN "physicians" and "surgeons" how can you not trust someone's conservative opinion when they have a name like that? Wake up sheeple!

Hollowed Ground

LOL! Tennessee had a conservative doctor as a Senator. Frist was his name. He diagnosed Teri Schiavo from his office 1000 miles away, without examining her! Said she would recover just fine if they left the food pump on! She had virtually no brain left but he said she just needed more nutrition! ROFL! He's more a quack than physician, but the religionists sure love his medical advice. Just like they love Trump's. LOL! Keep your hydroxydotardoquine in your back pocket in case you rub elbows with a Republican! ROFL!

Gary Lukert

Trump and Republicans are the people making it political.


I can totally understand the no shirt, no shoes, no service, but expecting me to wear a mask while inside a store during a pandemic just goes TOO FAR. I know my rights!

Hollowed Ground



Although I believe we should wear masks, Lyon co numbers have peaked.

Gary Lukert

Yes, that's what Trump and his followers want. Seems like our "esteemed" leader confidently proclaimed the Virus would disappear by either April 1 or May 1. Also, the Virus was a hoax. Blamed China for INTENTIONALLY manufacturing the Virus to hurt the United States.

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