Winfield city commissioners voted 3-0 to rescind the city’s mask ordinance in light of falling COVID-19 infection cases, replacing the rule with public health recommendations to help slow the spread of the virus.

The vote came at the commission’s regular meeting on Monday evening. The mask ordinance was adopted on July 6, 2020. It required people to wear a mask or other facial covering within the city limits in settings where six-foot social distancing could not be maintained.

The mask ordinance was replaced with a new resolution, also approved Monday in a 3-0 vote. In the resolution, commissioners strongly recommend that eligible residents be vaccinated, that masks or other face coverings be worn in public, that physical distancing be practiced in public, and that Winfield residents, businesses and organizations follow the guidance and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the City-Cowley County Health Department.

After the bills were approved, Mayor Greg Thompson said he appreciates the people and businesses that followed the ordinance. Thompson said he thought the mask requirement helped to slow the spread, but he understands now it is time to move on from the ordinance.

“I hope people will continue to follow the resolution with the recommendations,” he said.

During the commission work session on Thursday, Winfield city manager Taggart Wall said that, according to information provided by county health officer Tom Langer, the county is currently seeing about one positive case per day. Around 12,000 people have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine so far, with a county population of around 35,000.

At the work session, commissioner Ron Hutto encouraged support for places that might choose to maintain a mask requirement even after the city’s ordinance was repealed.

“We still need to support schools and businesses that require it, no matter what the board decides,” he said.

Marla Sexson, co-owner of Snappy Chicks Boutique in Winfield, said the repeal of the mask ordinance would not change procedures at her store, which does not require customers to wear masks. Sexson said she wears a mask if the customer is wearing one, or if there are multiple customers in the store and at least one of them is masked. If there is one non-masked customer, Sexson said she doesn’t wear one either, but stays at a distance.

Winfield police officers had the authority to issue citations or fines for people who violated the mask ordinance when it was in effect, although Chief Robbie DeLong has said their efforts were focused more on education and helping people obtain masks if needed. A message for DeLong inquiring if any officers had issued fines or citations while the ordinance was in effect was not returned before deadline.

A message for Langer seeking comment on the repeal was not returned before deadline.

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