Andover City Council opts against mandating face masks despite rising case numbers

Caelin Bragg
Andover City Hall is where the city council met to discuss whether to enact an ordinance that would require citizens to wear face masks. The ordinance was struck down 1-5 on Tuesday, July 14 after almost an hour of discussion.

The Andover City Council voted 1-5 against enacting an ordinance mandating the wearing of facemasks in public during their last meeting on Tuesday, July 14.

The ordinance mirrored what the Wichita City Council passed on Friday, July 3. Council Member Shelby Carselowey was the only one who voted in favor of the ordinance.

“I don’t feel like we are, in our city, in such a state that we should require [a mask mandate],” Council Member Troy Tabor, who voted against the ordinance, said at the meeting. “I really have confidence in our business owners, we don’t have nearly as many businesses as Wichita, or East Wichita or even a single street in Wichita. We don’t, and the businesses I’ve been to, most of them require masks anyway. And therefore I feel like our citizens and to trust our business owners. I don’t think it’s okay for a mandate at this point.”

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), as of Saturday, July 11, there have been 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19 of a total of 3243 people tested in Butler County.

The ordinance would have required that citizens who are in public spaces, where six-foot social distancing is not possible, must wear a mask or some sort of face covering, and, if not followed, would have resulted in a fine depending on the number of fines always received, with exceptions for some citizens and situations.

Since Kansas went into phase three of Governor Laura Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan to reopen the states on Monday, June 8, Butler County has seen 64 new cases as of July 11 according to the KDHE, an increase of more than double the total before entering phase three, which was 41 total cases.

There have still been no reported deaths from COVID-19 in Butler County, and of the 105 confirmed cases in the county, 78 have recovered as of Monday, July 13 according to Butler County’s COVID-19 resources.

Discussion of the ordinance lasted a little under an hour before taken to a vote. The city council spoke to Dr. Tara Katz, DO of Ascension Medical Group Via Christi in Andover for her medical expertise and to answer questions of the city council, and they also spoke to the Chief of Police Michael Keller on how fining citizens would work.

“There’s a lot of controversy on masks, but, as a doctor, I’ve always worn a mask, you know, we go into surgery, we wear a mask,” Katz said at the meeting. “We wear a mask to protect others. The mask is not for me, the mask is for other people. If I wear a mask, less respiratory droplets are being expelled into the air, therefore, less risk of COVID-19. So I personally think it’s a great idea to do a mandate, I don’t think people do it by option, I think the mandate helps those that are torn [on wearing masks].”

Earlier in the same day, the Butler County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate the emergency declaration and will remain in effect until Tuesday, Sept. 15. According to Lee White of Butler County, Kansas, News, this will give the county the ability to test citizens much quicker thanks to support from the state.