Lyon County Courthouse

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 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

(17) comments


Science ought to be controlling the decisions elected officials make at all levels of government. Unfortunately, as we've all recently learned, the Trump Administration has been engaged in an effort to downplay the risks of the coronavirus since January and the President himself has pushed dangerous, unproven cures such hydroxychloroquine and just this week directly contradicted his own CDC director on the efficacy of masks and when a potential vaccine might make an appreciable effect on controlling community transmission. Thus, governors, state legislators and county commissioners should remain very skeptical of the information that is coming out of Washington. The decision to lift the current restrictions on the number of people permitted to attend gatherings in close quarters is a bad decision that is not justified by the advice of medical experts. If the restrictions need tougher enforcement through civil penalties so be it.


So you say

Hollowed Ground

These so-called leaders are nothing more than jokers. Remember the calls by business owners last spring for people to come into their businesses, spend money and if necessary die so the economy could be energized? Die for the economy! Republicans really pushed that! Remember Trump's casual "People gotta die" remark? Well, let's make sure it ain't us doing the dying. I suggest a 1,999 persons gather at the Courthouse for a free-Coke.


I want some Crown in mine.


Thank you, Lyon County commissioners. You are Patriots for protecting liberty and individual freedoms.

Hollowed Ground

Your liberties stop where mine begin, and I don't appreciate your willingly passing your stinking coronas on to me. So wear a mask and keep them in your own lungs, not mine.


If the mask is such a wonderful thing yours should protect you whether the person next to you has one or not.


Agreed. If they work why do are they pushing this mask deal. Maybe becuase they dont work and they want this country to be socialist.

Vintage Queen

GEEZ are we STILL not getting it? YOU wearing a mask protects me from COVID. ME wearing one protects YOU. Masks keep what we have more to ourselves, than to protect us from others.


In the words of Sting and The Police: "Don't Stand So Close To Me."


There were 65 guests at the Maine wedding last month that resulted in 175 positive cases and 7 deaths -- and the 7 people who died weren't even at the wedding! They were simply unfortunate enough to come into contact with someone who was.

We've all seen the numbers being reported and the staggering impact the coronavirus has had on residents of local long-term care facilities and plant workers in our community, where the overwhelming number of Covid-related deaths occurred because people who work there caught the virus in the community and inadvertently brought it to work with them before becoming symptomatic.

It's unconscionable that a beloved and respected member of our community could die because someone they didn't even know decided they just couldn't pass up attending some sporting event, symphony, wedding or funeral.

Some risks are unavoidable but, when risks can be avoided, any responsible person will avoid them. When we're making decisions for ourselves, we must also think of the risks to others and exercise discipline and self-sacrifice. That is what makes us a community.


That's not what caused it


At least one of the "leaders" quoted in the article is a smoker, & it would be difficult to smoke with a mask on, so the move is to get the rules relaxed.


2000 That’s ridiculous. Our city leaders never fail to amaze me.


Proving to the voters they care more about tax dollars than public safety...

Hollowed Ground

I would not call them leaders. Like business owners they leadeth not except to their own pockets. Take care of your own health b/c no business owner or political leader will. You and I are sacrificial.


You should never put the responsibility of your own health inti the hands of the government, a.k.a. politicians, or business leaders. You should want to be responsible for your own health. Why give that much power to people you don't know and likewise who don't know you well enough to do what is in your own personal best interest? You are your own best personal health advocate. By the same token, you are not my best health advocate, just your own.

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