Winfield residents and business owners have voiced their opinions on wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ever since the Winfield City Commission approved an ordinance at their Monday meeting requiring masks in public settings where social distancing is not possible.
The ordinance, which goes into effect today, offers some exemptions, such as for people who are hard of hearing or participating in activities where masks are a safety hazard. It allows police to issue fines to people who are not wearing masks, although Winfield police plan to focus enforcement efforts on providing education and resources.
The ordinance comes after the Cowley County Commission opted to not follow a state-wide executive order requiring masks last week. Several other cities in Kansas, including Wichita and Manhattan, have enacted their own mask requirement after their counties rejected the executive order.
A post to the CourierTraveler Facebook page on Tuesday asking for people’s thoughts on the mask issue drew over 100 comments. Pro-ordinance responders tended to say that wearing a mask is a small thing they can do to help prevent spreading the disease to others. Many of those who are against the ordinance said wearing a mask should be a personal choice, and think citizens should have been allowed to vote on the ordinance. A petition has started to overturn the ordinance, and a number of people have said on social media they plan to only shop in cities where masks are not required.
“It is an absolute outrage. I can understand businesses saying ‘do not enter without a mask’ and considering it trespassing if you do enter without one, but making it a misdemeanor and fining people for being in public without one? That is ridiculous and wrong,” Jerry Perry said. “I support wearing the mask. But I cannot support fining a community, where the majority disagrees with the ordinance, and making it a misdemeanor. Apparently we as a community do not get our vote. We just have people make decisions for us? Like we are stupid?”
“I believe in freedom and think each business owner is an intelligent adult. They should be able to decide for themselves. I respect those who choose to wear a mask and those who don’t. Everyone holds their own beliefs in regard to this pandemic. We certainly can’t believe the big media or the tainted numbers, so no one truly knows the outcome,” Stacey Kielhorn said.
Wearing a mask is “not a big deal and pretty easy to do,” Pam Russell said. ‘We have so many seniors in our community that if I can help in any way to make it safer, I’m ok with it. It’s about compassion, empathy and kindness. So many are just about themselves these days. Just don’t understand how helping others is a bad thing.”
“I don’t think it’s a big deal, and I will wear a mask. I think it’s the least I can do for my community, my parents, family, and the people I work with. I simply don’t understand why anyone would want to penalize our hometown businesses just because our city commissioners are trying to keep the spread at a bare minimum,” Sandy Casebolt Bogle said.
Several Winfield business owners also took to social media to state their opinions on the ordinance and how it might affect their businesses. A common theme was that owners do not want to be put in the position of being enforcers of the mask ordinance.
A message on The Junk Generation’s Facebook page said the store will be open as planned. The ordinance will not be enforced there, and shoppers are also encouraged to not report non-mask wearers.
“We will not enforce the mandate in our store. To each their own,” Get Branded Custom Tees owner Amy Shepherd said in response to a message from the CourierTraveler.
Winfield Mayor Phil Jarvis declined to comment further on the ordinance, saying he didn’t have much else to say beyond what was talked about at Monday’s commission meeting.