photograph by: Jackson Barton/Journal-World File Picture
Douglas County leaders have authorised a brand new well being order that may maintain the masks mandate in place, eradicate the mass-gathering restrict and supply extra flexibility in regards to the occupancy guidelines for companies and venues.
As a part of its assembly Wednesday, the Douglas County Fee voted unanimously to approve the well being order, agreeing with medical professionals who stated that the precautions within the order had been nonetheless wanted. Douglas County Public Well being Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino stated that particularly with new variants of the virus, a continued masks order and different necessities had been the least restrictive motion to forestall the unfold of COVID.
“What we don’t wish to do is let off the throttle right here too rapidly,” Marcellino stated. “We wish to end out our likelihood to forestall the unfold, to get everyone totally vaccinated, to eradicate as a lot illness as we will, as a result of with the emergence of those variants, we will’t pull again simply but.”
The brand new well being order nonetheless requires folks older than 5 years to put on masks in all indoor public areas and out of doors areas the place 6 ft of distance can’t be maintained, with exceptions for folks with sure medical circumstances. The order removes the county’s mass-gathering restrict of fifty folks and retains a 50% capability discount on indoor companies and public venues, however permits companies and venues to choose out of the capability discount if they supply written discover to the well being division and put up signage about their occupancy on the entrance. Even for people who choose out, social-distancing necessities will nonetheless be enforced inside buildings and outdoors of buildings in circumstances comparable to traces to get right into a bar.
Deputy Public Well being Officer Jen Schrimsher introduced several studies, together with a research from Kansas, to the fee that confirmed that masks mandates have lowered the variety of circumstances and deaths from the virus in comparison with places with out mandates. Schrimsher additionally stated that because the virus spreads principally by respiratory droplets, it was essential to keep up social distancing necessities in locations comparable to eating places and bars the place folks take away their masks to eat and drink.
The fee heard from residents each for and in opposition to the well being order. Some cited causes for his or her objections that had been false, comparable to that masks haven’t been proven to assist sluggish the unfold of the virus or that individuals with out signs mustn’t must put on masks as a result of they will’t transmit the virus. Others expressed issues that enterprise homeowners typically didn’t respect medical or age exemptions to masks necessities, and others said that they felt it was their particular person proper or freedom to not put on a masks in public areas.
Two restaurant homeowners had been supportive of the fee persevering with the masks necessities and different necessities. Retailers Pub & Plate co-owner Emily Peterson cited the big variety of folks from outdoors town and state who’ve been visiting town in latest weeks for dad or mum weekends at College of Kansas fraternities and sororities, and the 2 upcoming KU commencement ceremonies in Could.
“Meaning each single weekend till the top of Could, we’ve big numbers of individuals touring in from different places, and positively a lot of exercise downtown, folks going out and in of companies,” Peterson stated. “And we definitely don’t know what the well being of that touring group is and the way that impacts our native well being.”
Commissioners stated they appreciated the research that had been supplied to again up the necessities within the well being order and had been comfy approving it, particularly as vaccinations continued to ramp up domestically. Fee Vice Chair Shannon Reid stated she appreciated those that shared issues, however that the well being order represented what was greatest for the group as a complete.
“On the identical time, we’ve to take a look at a communitywide perspective and actually take into consideration what are our obligations to selling public well being and particularly decreasing hurt,” Reid stated.
The well being order will go into impact at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and should be reevaluated by Could 26. Initially the date was set for Could 19, however commissioners agreed it was greatest to increase the date per week in order that each KU commencement ceremonies would fall throughout the identical necessities.