Sedgwick County rescinds mask mandate, wants to move to Phase 5 for vaccinations

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By Travis Mounts

The Sedgwick County Commission to lift its mask mandate during Wednesday's regular meeting. The action came on a 3-2 vote.

David Dennis, Pete Meitzner and Jim Howell voted to lift the mandate, while Sarah Lopez and Lacey Cruise were opposed. Dennis represents District 3, which includes the western Sedgwick County communities of Goddard, Garden Plain, Cheney and Viola. Lopez is the new District 2 representative, which includes the southern Sedgwick County communities of Haysville and Clearwater.

The move was not a surprise, as Senate Bill 40 heads to Gov. Laura Kelly's desk. The bill would make it much easier for people to challenge county mask orders in court. The Legislature, with Republican supermajorities, passed the bill. Kelly, a Democrat, was expected to sign the bill.

Without a mask mandate, county commissioners are pushing the State to move to Phase 5 of vaccinations.

County leaders said that they have the doses in hand and appointments are open. They noted that there are people who are ready and willing to be vaccinated, but do not qualify yet under state guidelines to receive their shots. They raised concerns that if the county moved into Phase 5 without State approval, then the state may stop providing vaccine doses to the county.

Commissioners voted unanimously to ask the state to move into Phase 5. The commissioners plan to meet again on Friday to see what the state's response is and how to move forward if the state does not grant permission to move to Phase 5.

Lopez called out the state for putting the county in a position of having to lift its mask mandate but keeping it from moving into Phase 5, where any Kansan age 16 or older would be eligible for vaccination.

“We are put in such a terrible position here,” she said. “And then we can't even vaccinate everybody. And I think that's so incredibly unfair to these people, because there's so many people who want vaccinated right now and they don't qualify...It's really frustrating that the state is putting us in that position.”

“I agree with Commissioner Lopez that they're putting in kind of a bind right now, and that's why I think we need to move into Phase 5,” Dennis said.

Sedgwick County leaders and health officials continue to recommend masks and social distancing. Individual businesses can continue to require customers to wear masks and to socially distance.
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