The City of Arkansas City should not rule out a local mask ordinance after the Cowley County Commission declined to create one.
Before we get into that, kudos to Ark City officials for their leadership on the new, countywide Crushing Covid campaign. The patriotic appeal to personal responsibly should help.
We think it will, but as we’ve all witness these several months, voluntary compliance goes only so far.
Ark City has been especially hard hit by the virus in overall cases and deaths. Hospital capacity in Cowley County and the region has become a grave concern.
A mask ordinance with the threat of a warning or fine might be necessary, especially if the marketing campaign does not reverse or slow current trends soon.
And in Winfield, which has had a local ordinance for months, police might need to step up enforcement. With politics and personal freedoms involved, forced mask-wearing certainly is tricky business.
Thus far, most Ark City commissioner aren’t keen on a mask requirement. And the police chief does not want a mask ordinance adding to officers’ burdens with the department very short staffed right now.
This is a big concern. Perhaps the financial consequences could be a civil penalty with code enforcement helping with compliance?
We’re not sure the best answer, but we are confident that local leaders and officers could find a way to make it work if it became a public safety priority.
By now there must be a “best practices” mask ordinance out there. The City of Parsons, where police have done mask inspections, might be an example to follow.
We believe that just having a law on the books will increase mask use, because many folks follow rules, and there will be more social pressure to do so. Especially as the peril mounts.
These are not normal times. They call for not normal solutions. What’s more, four Ark City commissioners also serve as trustees of South Central Kansas Medical Center. This gives them an even deeper responsibility for public health, the local hospital, and the workers and patients inside.
We don’t want to look back a year from now and wonder how much pain and suffering we might have prevented had we approved — and with careful discretion — enforced a mask ordinance.
— David A. Seaton, publisher