The Lyon County Commission decided not to update the county’s public health order Monday morning after hearing from a variety of health officials regarding the local surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

During a special meeting requested by Lyon County Public Heath officer Dr. Ladun Oyenuga, she recommended that the commission implement a mask mandate and a limitation of 40% capacity at event spaces.

“People working in the trenches presently are going through a lot; our health system in Lyon County is basically stretched to our limits,” Oyenuga said. “ … I can’t take responsibility for anybody’s behaviors or choices, but all I can do is try to do is the right thing.”

However, none of the three commissioners was willing to make any changes to the current public health order passed in April 2021, which does not mandate anything but strongly recommends masking, hand-washing and social distancing.

Commission Chairman Rollie Martin said that he believed that following recommended mitigation strategies was a matter of personal responsibility.

“It affects us individually, but I think that as individuals … and as groups, we’re just going to have to figure a way through it,” he said. “There just doesn’t seem to be a win-win situation for everyone.”

Commissioner Scott Briggs said that he didn’t think that a mask mandate would make much of a difference, although he acknowledged that keeping the public health order the same was “a disservice to the health community here.”

“I apologize for this community for not following your lead because we haven’t,” he said. “The mask mandate, last time, people didn’t follow it. I fear that they won’t this time either. … You guys are taking the brunt of this because you’re working extra hours, you’re overwhelmed, there’s really no end in sight again to this. I guess part of me would rather focus on trying to find you more resources to get you help, to get people through this, to get you guys a bit of a break. Because honestly, I think if we use the word ‘mandate,’ we’re going to create a bigger problem.”

Commissioner Doug Peck called on businesses to mandate masks in their locations rather than having governmental bodies do it for them.

“If businesses would put signs up — ‘please don’t come in unless you have a mask on’ — there can be a mandate there,” he said. “They rule what takes place in their business. Walmart, anybody else — ‘don’t come in unless you have a mask on.’ That’s their own mandate for public health and I think more of them need to do that. I was in Walmart the other day and I had my mask on. I was one of few. That’s alright, but I did. Our local businesses need to step up, I think, join the outcry and say, ‘Okay, if you’re going to come into my business, please put a mask on.’”

The decision came after professionals representing Lyon County Public Health, Newman Regional Health and Flint Hills Community Health Center presented the commission a snapshot of the current state of the pandemic in Lyon County.

Lyon County Public Health emergency preparedness coordinator Jennifer Millbern reported that right now the county is diagnosing more than 300 new COVID-19 cases per week after averaging 60-65 new cases per week in September-November and about 180 per week after Thanksgiving.

Millbern also reported that the Omicron variant had not yet been identified in Lyon County and that the recent cases that have been genetically tested are still primarily of the Delta variant.

“We do believe that Omicron is here,” she said. “It’s just that there is a relatively small portion of samples being sequenced at this point in time, so we have not been able to detect it.”

She said that Lyon County is still “riding out the Delta wave” and NRH infection preventionist Ester Knobloch said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s shortened quarantines released last week were in response to the Omicron variant — which is comparatively milder.

However, because the Delta variant appears to be the dominant strain in Lyon County, following the new CDC guidelines could cause problems.

“People that are going out of isolation on day six are still contagious with Delta, which is what we have here,” Knobloch said. “And so if we do not want to see a massive increase in Delta in our community, it’s important for us to continue to stay with that 10-day (isolation).”

NRH chief administrative officer Cathy Pimple reported that the hospital currently has 34 individuals hospitalized. Fifteen of those individuals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and nine of them are currently on ventilators.

Regarding transfers, Pimple said that NRH is experiencing longer wait times for bed availability at its tertiary hospitals than at any other time in the pandemic, meaning that COVID-19 patients are on ventilators for longer periods of time.

Pimple said that in 2021, 42 individuals in Kansas died while waiting for a transfer, with 30 additional people being shifted from the transfer waitlist to comfort care. Already in Jan. 2022, there have been 14 deaths of individuals awaiting a transfer.

As of Monday, she said, NRH just had one ventilator still available and the hospital will request additional units from the state “within the next 24-48 hours.”

If that request is not granted, Pimple said that NRH would “have to look at shutting down elective surgeries and using anesthesia machines as ventilation support.”

Millbern reported that more than 80% of the COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Lyon County were unvaccinated individuals.

On Monday afternoon, Lyon County Public Health reported 201 new cases of COVID-19 to go along with 202 new recoveries, leaving the county with a total of 480 active cases, 141 of which are considered breakthrough cases.

In total, there have been 7,372 cases of COVID-19 in Lyon County, with 6,792 recoveries and 98 deaths (including four deaths pending certification).

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“ The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.”

- Aldous Huxley - “Crome Yellow”


Way to be leaders of the community! Leaders make the tough decisions and don't sit back and let everyone figure it out.


Right now the world is in a rabbit hole on repeat brought on by Covid and the unreasonable nature of humans...this is not just Emporia, not just Lyon County or Kansas, not just the United States but the World. I am saddened that these past two years for some were their last, the nursing home residents unable to see loved ones as they ride out their last years, the Healthcare workers that have busted their tails while breaking their hearts, family pictures minus so many from the year before, facts people turn into fallacy and twisted promoting more illness,more deaths. People decry their rights while taking away the rights of others due to their selfishness. Like a horror movie on repeat COVID continues to replay over and over again. Until the tape breaks,until we move from VHS to digital to streaming...I am afraid our nightmare will remain real. When our healthcare system becomes truly broken will we believe and listen then? Remember polio?


In essence, we are letting county leaders with no medical background or education make decisions on public health rather than the health professionals in charge. Is this the 21st Century? Have we not advanced enough as a species to not for the Reasoned advice? Craziness, man, just crazy!


Well said


We are actually letting them punt on decisions on public health. They are defaulting to letting businesses set policy. It seems our County Commission wants to move from a representative democracy to a corporatocracy. I will be remembering this decision come election time.

Assuming the State Legislature hasn't revoked my right to vote by then....


I would hope that whatever position one takes on mandating mask usage we can find common ground in agreeing that our leaders at all levels of government including the county commission have done a very poor job of containing the spread of covid. We have lost approximately 200,000 more people in the United States to this virus than the 1918-1920 flu pandemic which is astounding considering the advances in medical treatment and the development and mass production of highly effective vaccines only 12 months after the first case was diagnosed. Utterly shameful!


What a gutless decision by county leaders. The only one with any balls is the public health doctor who is doing her job and making the right recommendation based on logic and fact. You know, that thing called Reason. Reason is a gift we all have but a minority of people use or they must genetically lack it. Data shows only Delta in our area? Well, guess what, wait until Omicron arrives and shit hits the fan making things are even worse than now. I guarantee Omicron is on the way. History will mark this pandemic as the death of reason, truth and compassion.


If you want to wear a mask go ahead.


D17, you say the businesses do not have the authority to require mask in their business and you are so very wrong. Just like the saying no shirt no shoes no service that also means no mask no service. If you don’t believe that just ask a policeman or an attorney. We had a few confrontations with people who refused to leave so we called the police and they escorted them out because we were right.


Dale011, Losing your business and anyone else like you didn’t even come close to matching the amount of business that came to us based on the fact that we like Bluestem in-forced mask wearing. I have friends that worked at Walmart and their management team tell me that they were at times 30 to 35% down and employees because they did not enforce their customers to wear a mask. We never had more than a couple of people out at one time and again most of them were ones that caught it from friends or family. I contribute that strictly to us wearing mask, and requiring customers to wear them. You have every right to shop anywhere you wish but you don’t have the right to shop somewhere that requires masks. It is the stores right to refuse service to anybody period.


With 98 deaths in the county the death rate is .003, rounding up. Please stop the panic porn.


Lyon County has had 7,372 cases, 98 of which have resulted in death. I didn't round off anything. I think your math might be a little off.


Dale doesn't understand statistics.


I believe Dale understands them quite well. .003 is 98 divided by the population of the county.


I agree Dale


And right there's your problem, dustball.... instead of doing the math yourself, you just agree with Dale that 98 deaths divided by 7,372 cases is .003 "rOuNdInG uP"... I don't understand how you all enjoy being wrong so much, lol.


Any business that tells me I have to wear a mask to be there loses my business permanently. We need not go through this idiocy again.


I doubt they will miss you!!


Any business that tells people they need to wear a mask to be there gains my business permanently. We need not keep letting spreadnecks infect people. I was proud of Bluestem for hiring a security guard to help keep its customers safe.


MWS, not quite sure where you got your facts, And honestly don’t care, because there are facts to suit each side of this. All I can go buy is at where I worked,we required all employees, and customers to wear masks, and we had a very small number of our employees come down with Covid, and most of them probably came done with it at home, or from friends. I’ve never been thrilled with mandates, but I am in support of everybody wearing mask as much as possible. There are facts out there that show in the previous year to a reduced cold and the flu along with helping prevent getting Covid. I have been very fortunate to have not contacted Covid and I truly believe it is because of wearing the mask and having been vaccinated.


I would never shop in your store then. No idea where it was but no one should be forced against their will to wear a face diaper that is useless at preventing airborne disease. It will also get in your eyes. The masks have been a farce all along.


Over the last 2 years it's been proven that there is no need to mandate anything. Covid is a warfare virus sent to us by China. It is here to stay. It cannot be zeroed out. It is like the flu. Quarantine makes it worse, masks don't work, vaccines don't work, face shields don't work, nothing works. For example: Germany: Over 4,200 new cases of which 96% were fully vaccinated! Denmark: 90% of new cases fully vaccinated. UK: 75% of hospitalizations are fully vaccinated. A new study from Bangladesh found that among 404 people re-infected with COVID, having been vaccinated made someone 2.45x more likely to get re-infected with a mild infection, 16.1x more likely to get a moderate infection & 3.9x more likely to be re-infected severely, relative to someone with prior infection who was not vaccinated. NYC just released their covid 19 hospitalization statistics. ALMOST HALF OF THE ‘COVID’ ADMISSIONS WERE FRAUD. Half of the admissions were patients that were admitted for non-Covid reasons & happened to have tested positive for Covid while there. BigPharma made out like bandits: $34B in revenue and skyrocketing stock prices. They got the mine, we got the shaft.


Covid wasn't made in a lab. "Based on the virus genome and properties, there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus." That is pretty widely agreed upon in the scientific community...

"Nothing works" Obviously have done little to no scientific reading on the matter, or just opened your eyes and looked around you.

Denmark has an extremely high vaccination rate... around 97%... and it also has a much lower death rate per capita compared to a country with a lower vaccination rate, such as the USA... which has a rate of only 62%... Denmark has 583 deaths per 1 million people... the USA has 2,578 deaths per 1 million people, 5 TIMES HIGHER! Whoever told you 90% of new cases are vaccinated without any context is misleading you... and you fell for it. All your statistics also appear to be made up... I cannot find any mention of 16.1x more likely, 2.45, 3.9....... I believe you're just making this stuff up. Please provide a source... (probably not happening)

Being vaccinated does not increase your chances of reinfection. period.


"Obviously have done little to no scientific reading...." I do not think MWS has the ability to process scientific writing. Even if they were to stumble across a scientific article, I doubt they could understand the basic arithmetic, and certainly they couldn't understand the statistics.


Keep the spread going. No backbone to do something to helo us. Give it to the businesses to do your job.


I managed a grocery store until I retired eight months ago and we had an owner who 100% backed us in enforcing the mask mandate. We made a few people very mad at us,but we made 95 Percent of the people happy, and it got around town and our business increased even more than what we had received with the panic buying. We know we would not get the support from the police department because they were not getting the support from the district attorney, by not prosecuting.


What try a worthless group of County Commissioners we have. Strongly suggesting mark usage thus far hasn’t worked. Why would now be any different?

I agree also with D17. Businesses need help!!


So, under this logic, the county commissioners should eliminate any code/statute that isn't being enforced consistently then? If the reason for not implementing a mask mandate is because it's not being enforced, the problem isn't with the mandate, the problem is with the agencies responsible for enforcement.

What an extremely sad county we live in where things like zoning/building code enforcement is strictly mandated and highly enforced but something affecting public health is not.


Well said. This wishy-washy policy leaves the businesses as the enforcers, with no authority to enforce and no one to back them up.

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