Lyon County commissioners approved an updated public health order prioritizing “flexibility” and “individual responsibility” Thursday after weeks of community input and discussion with local leaders.
Set to begin Friday and run through Nov. 12, the new order maintains the same language on recommendations for travelers, high-risk individuals, long-term care centers and area businesses, again “highly encouraging” the use of masks in favor of mandating them. The majority of changes come in the category of mass gathering limits, which will be raised significantly moving forward.
Outdoor and indoor entertainment venues that can maintain social distancing — and mask wearing for functions within the city limits of Emporia while the mandate remains in place — can operate with 2,000 people or less in attendance, essentially keeping the doors open for major community events such as sports games or parades as well as more personal events like weddings and funerals. Any event that could bring in more than 2,000 attendees will require specific approval from the County Health Department to proceed, with a general rule of thumb stating the individual groups of 10 people should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance from another group of up to 10 (an element which commissioners said was partially based on the recent Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium).
Overall, the order essentially removes the previous 45 person mass gathering cap if social distancing can be maintained, with the main intent being to shift responsibility to individual businesses, schools and other organizations.
“The flexibility this plan allows for is going to come through planning, and that’s why we’re encouraging individual responsibility with planning your event or your gathering beforehand,” Commissioner Rollie Martin said. “Are you maintaining social distancing? Do you have enough hand sanitizer and are you able to wear masks as recommended? Those three things are the things that we know work — in various ways, not always perfect — and with that added planning people can fit in what they need to their own individual situation.”
While saying he did recognize the health benefits of mask wearing and other safety precautions, Lyon County Attorney Marc Goodman said he couldn’t justify any additional mandates on philosophical grounds.
“Obviously, I’m an elected prosecutor,” he said. “I’m under my oath and was sworn to uphold the laws and statutes in the constitution of both the United States and Kansas. I’ve always held that the rule of law is controlling for this county, because without it, you become anarchy ... What I’ve seen throughout this is parties that try to pass or issue edicts and orders that have no basis in and that are not authorized by law. They help create disdain for the law, which to me is a plague we have going on right now anyway.
“Everywhere, those laws were being held up as, ‘Well, there’s no reason to follow that, that’s stupid. We’ll just do what we want.’ … So, for the county to try and mandate a mask order, to me, is holding all of us up to ridicule and the law up to ridicule because anyone can take about three seconds to realize there’s absolutely no penalty and nothing we can do about it. I will refuse until Doomsday to hold the government and the Constitution up to ridicule like that.”
A full copy of the health order will be posted to the county’s website at lyoncounty.org/index in the coming days. In the meantime, those with specific inquiries can contact the Lyon County Attorney’s office at 620-341-3263.
“This order will hopefully give people a tool to plan, social distance and host any type of event they want to have in a safer way,” Commissioner Scott Briggs said.
During the meeting, the commission also:
Reviewed an annual presentation from Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas President Kent Heermann. The review will be covered in an upcoming Gazette article.
Approved a $13,000 quote from Frank Black Pipe and Supply for the purchase of approximately 500 feet of surplus 24-inch casing
Approved a $158,000 quote from Foley Equipment for a used 2017 Caterpillar 12M3 motor grader and a 1997 Caterpillar 143H grader