KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - - When Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced her new executive order on face coverings on Wednesday, she prefaced the announcement with stories of health care professionals stressed by the pandemic. Two of those work at the KU Health System in Kansas City, KS.

Kathy Riegelman is a chaplain there.

“It’s the end of the day on Friday and it ended up being a really challenging day,” she began one of her video entries.

Many of her videos begin with a similar phrase. It’s Friday. This was my day. It was challenging. It’s not intentionally repetitive, but that’s the nature of nine months of patient care in a pandemic.

“My heart goes out to these patients and families,” she said in another video, taking a long pause and letting out an audible sigh before continuing, “and, I don’t know, I just feel really drained after seeing how sick these patients are and just holding on to hope that things are going to get better for them.”

Governor Kelly on Wednesday described Riegelman’s role in providing comfort.

“Due to visitation restrictions, some days Kathy sits outside patients’ rooms and speaks on the phone with their family members,” Kelly said.

Kelly also gave an account of KU Health System nurse Becky Williams.

“She is weary from the uphill battle every day she faces caring for severely ill COVID patients. For months Becky has worked long days and demanding hours. Some days she only sits down for 10 minutes during her shift to eat something quickly before rushing back to care for her patients or to help them video chat with loved ones one last time before they succumb to the virus,” Kelly said.

Riegelman’s job, her calling, is to provide emotional and spiritual support to others. Yet, she also speaks in her videos about her own stress. On several occasions, she talks about how hard it’s been to avoid seeing family members other than her husband.

“I feel like I’m the risk factor for my family. I’m really trying to do the right thing and keep others safe,” she said. “I really look forward to the day when I can get together with my daughter and my sisters."

Chaplain and Husband

Kathy Riegelman with her husband. He is the only family member she has seen in person for months.

When she talks about her role providing support, it is not just for patients and family members but also for hospital staff.

“It just seems to be that everyone is feeling the weight of what this is doing and the length of time that it is going on,” she described.

One video ended with a sentiment many are feeling in health care and beyond.

“I look forward to the day when it’s not like this,” she said.

You can watch her video diary here.

The governor’s new mask mandate eliminates the one-size-fits-all approach of her July mandate that so many counties rebuffed. It gives each county one week to come up with its own mask ordinance that “works for them and their residents.” If they don’t create their own, then they will automatically be opted into the state rules. Those who already opted into the July mandate are exempt.

There is still room for counties to opt out entirely because of a bill that Republican lawmakers put into place in response to her July order. To do that, they need to take specific legislative action.

A report from the Kansas Health Institute indicates that as of late last month, Miami and Leavenworth Counties did not have mask mandates or other restrictions in place.

Late Wednesday, the City of Leavenworth announced the City Commission will hold a special meeting on Thursday at 3 p.m. to consider a proposed mask ordinance there.

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