It took less than 30 minutes for the Cowley County commissioners to opt out of Gov. Laura Kelly's executive order that Kansans wear face masks in public, in a unanimous vote Friday morning.
What the mandate says
Kelly signed the order Thursday morning and it took effect today. The order requires Kansans to wear masks in indoor settings in most cases and outdoors if social distancing cannot be maintained.
Exceptions to those required to wear the masks are children five years old and under, persons with medical conditions that prevent wearing a face covering, people who are hearing impaired, eating at a restaurant, and some athletic events.
People who are inside or in line to enter indoor spaces, receiving healthcare services, using public transit or ride sharing services, and outside and unable to maintain six feet of distance must wear a face mask.
All businesses must require all employees and visitors to wear a face mask in public spaces and in an enclosed area where they are unable to maintain six feet of distance.
“The evidence could not be clearer — wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” the Democratic governor told reporters this week.
The meeting
Commission chair Wayne Wilt and member Bob Voegele were on hand at the courthouse while vice chair Alan Groom Zoomed in for the meeting.
The county's Public Health Officer Thomas Langer did not speak at the meeting and commissioners did not mention any recommendations coming from the health department.       
All three commissioners said they had had numerous calls from residents since the governor announced her plan earlier this week. Almost all of the calls, they said, were against the county's going along with it.
"I even had calls from some people who wear masks all the time, and they said don't do it," Wilt said. "They believe people should have a choice about wearing masks."
Wilt said anyone who feels safer wearing a mask is welcome to do so.
Asked after the meeting if they had been wearing a mask or if they planned to wear a mask, both Wilt and Voegele said they hadn't been wearing one and didn't intend to wear one even though they are both over 60, the age at which the national Centers for Disease Control says the dangers associated with COVID-19 begin to get most serious. 
As of Friday, infections since the pandemic began in Cowley Country stood at 73, with 22 active cases; 1,650 tests for the virus have been done.
State Sen. Larry Alley and Rep. Cheryl Helmer were also present for the meeting. Alley confirmed what he'd said in an earlier CourierTraveler story — he did not wear a mask because no one had proven that the masks could prevent the coronavirus.
He tried wearing one at one point, he said, but the elastic over his ear displaced his hearing aid. He also said he has high blood pressure and when he tried wearing the mask, his blood pressure rose.
Helmer said she had worn one in a store and she found it hard to breathe.
Helmer said she was moved by pleas from area hairdressers who wrote of being without income for three months while their businesses were closed. 
Alley said he was glad the commissioners took the action they did because the legislature had agreed that the local people know their counties best. "This is about freedom," Alley said. 
Other reactions
Wyandotte County and Douglas County already require masks. A number of other counties have already opted out of the mandate including Sedgwick, Harvey, Butler and Sumner counties.
In all cases, the counties are "strongly encouraging" people to wear the masks, but they will not be required to do so.
In contrast to the counties' choices not to require masks, all Kansas district and appeals courts are now required to have people wear masks in courtrooms and any spaces pertaining to the courts.
"The Supreme Court order requires all court employees, judicial officers, and members of the public to wear a face covering in any courtroom, court office, or other facility used for a court proceeding. Face coverings must also be worn in any nonpublic court office unless physical shields are in place," according to a press release from the Kansas Supreme Court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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(5) comments

Scott Ray

Good to hear. Glad some people don't cave to fear mongers


I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve overcome many autoimmune symptoms brought on by a virus and lack of proper healthcare ie. nutrition, exercise, sun, water and I disagree with the masks. My immune system has allowed me to overcome chronic illness with proper living and I believe in others abilities to do the same. This really is about personal freedom. A mask should serve you well if you’re in fear of your life. Thanks for giving people the stage, commissioners.


Wow, this level of ignorance and stupidity is why I left Cowley and KS. The governor obviously cared enough about Kansans to put in place (partially) what every other country in the world has done to flatten the curve. This effort is to save lives and it's obvious that the county leaders could care less about the health and welfare of their residents. This is not POLITICAL, it's what's been proven to slow the spread of a virus that nobody understands. It's about ensuring not only the safety of everyone, but to ensure our healthcare systems aren't overrun (and trust me, little Cowley County doesn't have the needed generators to keep people alive - you think a vent is like a face mask, think again) let alone the healthcare workers able to support the influx.


COPIED- it’s long but a must read!

Chicken pox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don't think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you're older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don't just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it's been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they're going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you're going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don't just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it's been around for years, and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system, and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be cataloged, much less understood.

So far the symptoms may include:






Acute respiratory distress

Lung damage (potentially permanent)

Loss of taste (a neurological symptom)

Sore throat


Difficulty breathing

Mental confusion


Nausea or vomiting

Loss of appetite

Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)

Swollen eyes

Blood clots


Liver damage

Kidney damage


COVID toes (weird, right?)

People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again. A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.

This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:

How dare you?

How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as "getting it over with", when literally no one knows who will be the lucky "mild symptoms" case, and who may fall ill and die. Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30 year olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.

How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don't yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:

Frequent hand-washing

Physical distancing

Reduced social/public contact or interaction

Mask wearing

Covering your cough or sneeze

Avoiding touching your face

Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren't immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

I reject the notion that it's "just a virus" and we'll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance.


So very well said. It is sad that in Kansas there is the intelligence to elect a Governor who can make the tough decisions but then is shot down by those elected to county positions. I'm afraid in time they will learn the error of their decisions. While others throughout the county will become sick due to the error of their ways. I'm too often embarrassed by the fact that I'm from Kansas -- like now.

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