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Some KS counties in difficult position after mask mandate extension denied

KANSAS — Thursday Kansas lawmakers revoked Governor Laura Kelly’s mask mandate extension.

This puts places like Crawford County in a difficult position.

Until now the county hadn’t had its own mask mandate and had been solely following the state. With it gone, unless officials were to enact their own mandate, mask requirements are now up to private entities.

Taylor Whiteley, Root Coffeehouse Co-Owner, said, “So as long as there is a mandate in our county, we’re going to keep enforcing it.”

But for many like Crawford County there isn’t anymore. Previously Kansas Governor Laura Kelly had signed an executive order extending the mask mandate, however it was soon stopped.

Jeremy Johnson, Crawford County Commissioner, said, “The Legislative Coordinating Council voted along party lines to ditch it. As well as both the Senate and the House passing resolutions in favor of it being revoked.”

While the current mandate may be revoked, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic. Some businesses will still be taking precautions.

“Only for a while I’m still going to enforce my employees wear them, and myself, but as far as customers go, if there’s not a county or state mandate, I don’t really feel we can require it.”

Due to recent changes to the Kansas Emergency Management Act, counties are placed in a situation where it would harm them to put a mandate back in place.

“I’m a little worried. If we put anything in place, it allows anyone who is aggrieved, with no definition of aggrieved to file a suit in district court against us. All of a sudden county resources are all simply tied up in court because the legislature has allowed this mechanism to happen,” said Johnson.

Now counties are in a difficult position. Until they can determine whether they continue on with their own mandates, there’s not much else they can do.

“So in the meantime, there’s only recommendations in place that people continue to wear masks.”

Lawmakers revoking the mandate was anticipated for a while now. At Wednesday’s Labette County Commission meeting, they rescinded their mask order in anticipation of this happening.

As for Crawford County, commissioners and health officials will be discussing this at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

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