Under bipartisan legislation that passed in the state House and Senate on Tuesday, March 16, Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders, including a statewide mask mandate, would expire March 31 — and Miami County’s adherence to the state mask mandate would end with it.
Because the County Commission did not put its own mandate in place, commissioners would not have to take any action before the end of the month to see the governor’s mask mandate expire March 31 in Miami County.
The County Commission has shown no appetite for taking action to extend the mask mandate beyond the end of the month.
The legislation overwhelmingly passed in the House (118-5) and in the Senate (31-8) to limit the governor’s executive powers during the pandemic. The governor is expected to sign the bill because the measure also extends the state’s emergency declaration through the end of May so Kansas can continue to receive federal aid.
Chair Rob Roberts explained that scenario to the audience at the outset of the commission’s Wednesday, March 17, meeting.
“The last few weeks the commission has been discussing (the issue) with a host of our citizens who’ve come to request a mask mandate be removed in Miami County, and we have reminded (them) that in the past the commissioners have not voted for a mask mandate,” Roberts said. “We did not implement one. The governor of Kansas did under Executive Order 20-68.”
The reason the mandate has been in place since late November in Miami County is because the commission did not opt out of the governor’s mask mandate.
At the time, the county had more than 100 active COVID-19 cases, including three clusters, and a positive test rate of about 17 percent. Statistics released Wednesday told a different story.
The county as of March 17 had seven active cases, no new clusters, no new deaths and a positivity rate of 2.13 percent.
Miami County Health Department numbers show more than 3,000 county residents have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and more than a 1,000 have received the second dose as of March 10.
Additionally, the health department reported March 17 that another 927 doses had been administered since March 11. The health department has 25 upcoming vaccination clinics scheduled through April.
The health department is preparing to move into additional phases of the state vaccine roll-out plan, and reports that most of the 65-plus age group who completed a vaccine interest survey under Phase 2 have received the vaccine.
Roberts told the audience March 17 that the commission no longer needs to seek legal advice or direction from health officials if the commission continues to stay the course through the end of the month and not take further action.
The mask ordinances in the cities of Osawatomie and Paola and the mask mandates in the county’s school districts would not be affected, because the county has no jurisdiction over those entities.
“Unless the commissioners want to do something, I’ll ask that you work with the county administrator if you choose to put something on the agenda, but I don’t foresee any action taking place,” Roberts said, turning to the other commissioners.
No commissioners expressed a desire to continue the mask order.
“So I anticipate all executive orders will end on March 31, and I personally don’t see your commission creating one to put in place,” Roberts concluded.