Sedgwick County to require masks in public places

Sedgwick County’s health officer says he has signed an emergency order requiring people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In an announcement Wednesday, Dr. Garold Minns said the county has seen increases in coronavirus rates and hospitals are concerned about the numbers.  He said COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and “as a community, we need to stay protected and reduce the spread.”

Dr. Minns said masks will be required in the following situations:

–Indoor or outdoor public spaces when social distancing of six feet is not possible

–Standing in line to enter an indoor public space

–Obtaining services from health care facilities

–Waiting for or riding public transportation, or while in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle

Dr. Minns said all businesses and organizations must require all employees, customers, members, visitors or members of the public when they are in any space with customers or members of the public.   Masks are also required for employees working in any space where food is packaged for sale or distribution.

There are exceptions to the order.  Children 5 and under are not required to wear a mask, and Dr. Minns says children under 2 should not wear a face mask because of the risk of suffocation.   People with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a face covering will also be exempt.   People in a restaurant can remove the mask while they are eating if they are maintaining a six-foot distance from others.    Athletes in organized sports activities are also exempt when they are maintaining a six-foot distance.

Dr. Minns said Phase 3 of the state reopening plan will be adopted, limiting mass gatherings to 45 people or less.  He said the guidelines will provide the best chance of diminishing the virus.

The order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 10th, and it will be in place until at least midnight, Sunday, August 9th.

Dr. Minns noted that Sedgwick County has the highest unemployment rate in Kansas, and he said the actions with the mask requirement are not being taken lightly.  He said “we want to keep our businesses open and continue to recover economically.   I recognize that our community wants to get back to normal life before the appearance of COVID-19 but it is simply not possible at this time.”  He said it’s important for residents, businesses and the whole community to come together to protect one another and also enact measures that will allow the county to recover economically.