Riley County commissioners indicate they won't seek to extend mask mandate

Savannah Rattanavong, The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
·2 min read

Apr. 9—With just two of Riley County's newest COVID-19 cases located outside Manhattan, county commissioners on Thursday indicated they wouldn't extend the county mask mandate set to expire at midnight May 17.

In an update to the county commission, Julie Gibbs, Riley County Health Department director, said two of the 27 new cases identified in the last week were outside of Manhattan and the county's rate of positive tests was 1.1%, the 10th week in a row it has seen the percent of positive tests below 5%.

Commissioner Greg McKinley said in businesses or places outside of the city, he often sees people speaking around protective partitions and lax wearing of face masks.

"I'm just thinking that the masks outside of Manhattan are not needed and tend to not be used," McKinley said.

Manhattan's mask mandate also is set to expire midnight May 17.

Commission chairman John Ford agreed he did not see as much face mask usage outside the city.

"What's difficult coming from my perspective with this now is we have two cases outside the city of Manhattan," he said. "... It's hard to explain to people that you need to put on a mask to get a bag of ice at the convenience store ... so I'm still tossing and turning on that."

Commissioner Kathryn Focke said the reason the county decided to extend the mask mandate was to take into account the local schools, like K-State, being let out for the summer. Officials link schools being let out to less population density in the area as students return home.

"Some other counties may not have a big college like we do," she said.

Ford said the commission and other officials would continue to watch COVID-19 data trends, but if the emergency operations center is still operative by then, it should discuss what termination of the mask mandate would look like and when.

As of Wednesday, the county had 28 active cases out of a total of 6,342.

According to the county's reporting system Friday, the health department has fully vaccinated about 12,000 people. Additionally, it has given a first dose to about 7,300.