LEAVENWORTH, KS (KCTV) -- Leavenworth County's Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 Wednesday morning to opt out of the Kansas governor's statewide mask mandate that Gov. Laura Kelly announced last week.
The statewide mandate allows individual entities to opt out, but so far, all Kansas counties in the Kansas City area have affirmed the order, with the exceptions of Leavenworth and Linn counties.
The commissioners spoke for about an hour Wednesday morning about civil liberties versus general welfare.
Commissioner Vicky Haaz, the only board member to support the mandate, said she “loves individual freedoms” as much as anyone, but will not “put politics above public health.”
Jeff Culbertson, representing the First District, said if they do not have the power to enforce the rule, the board should not make the rule.
The Cities of Leavenworth and Lansing each approved a mask ordinance. The orders go into effect Saturday.
The public comment section of the meeting featured only citizens advocating against similar orders for the entire county.
“It hasn’t had any impact at all on the number of people who are or aren’t wearing masks. The only impact it’s had is that psychologically, it’s just making people stay home so that they don’t get harassed about masks,” said Pat Proctor, Kansas State Representative.
Chairman Doug Smith said the board encourages people to use common sense and wear mask, but it will not enforce the recommendation.
Residents who were out shopping Wednesday afternoon were wearing masks for the most part. KCTV5 News spoke to one family who says they are carefully picking who they interact with, especially without a county mask mandate.
“Hopefully people are realizing how serious this pandemic is by now,” Leavenworth County resident Amy Nutsch said. “To keep others safe, I would think that you would want to wear your mask. We kind of try to stay away from people who are going out right now. Because if they go out, they might be endangering the people I want to see for Christmas or around this time next year.”
“When we know better, we do better, so let’s do better and let’s all come together and wear our masks so next year we don’t have to wear these things. We can wear our smiles again,” Khyeese Bethea whose family lives in Leavenworth, said.
Leavenworth County has had 3,503 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths so far during the coronavirus pandemic. The City of Leavenworth approved a mask mandate last week.
More than 50 of the state's 151 counties have a mask requirement in place.
KCTV5 News has reached out to the Kansas Governor’s office to see if the county’s decision will affect the Governor’s order in that area.