Shawnee Co. commissioners discuss moving away from coronavirus mandates

Shawnee Co. commissioners discuss moving away from coronavirus mandates
Shawnee Co. commissioners discuss moving away from coronavirus mandates(Alyssa Willetts)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 3:30 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Shawnee County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday included a lengthy discussion about whether COVID-19 orders are still needed.

As County Health Officer, Erin Locke, was reviewing the latest health order, Commissioner Bill Riphan questioned why the county is not moving away from mandates altogether.

”I think we’re at that point where we can make this a recommendation and let the people decide,” he said.

Board Chair, Kevin Cook, illustrated why he feels that would be a dangerous move saying, ”If we’re going to go that route, I would likewise make a motion that we make all speed limits in Shawnee County a recommendation, make stop signs a recommendation, and just let people decide how fast they want to go and whether they want to stop at an intersection.”

Cook also pointed out that the county is improving, but said it is still too soon to lift all orders.

A handful of county residents spoke up in disagreement.

”I think it’s time that we put our big boy pants on and use some common sense,” said one.

Another said, ”Most people do understand what’s going on and those who are fearful or have a need are free to do that, but making that a requirement for everyone, after a year, is too much.“

”I think it’s time to just let the citizens decide for themselves how they are to handle their own safety,” said a third resident.

As the commissioners prepared to vote on the order, Vice Chair, Aaron Mays, proposed a middle ground.

”I’m in agreement on a lot of this stuff. I’m tired of this too. I hate COVID-19. I would love nothing more than to pretend it never happened and go back to life as it was a year ago, we’re not in that position though.”

Mays made a motion to approve the current order with a stipulation surrounding vaccinations. He said, “When we move to Phase 3, all of these orders will be rescinded.”

However, it failed -- with both Riphan and Cook voting ‘no’.

”I think that we need to look at where we are at before we make it from a mandate to a recommendation,” said Cook.

The board moved to approve the current health order. Cook also agreed to put Mays’ suggestion, to end the mandates once the state moves into Phase Three, on the agenda for review when that time comes.

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