Riley County commission opposes mask mandate for county employees

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Riley County commissioners dismissed a mask mandate recommendation for county employees on Monday.

Health Department Director Julie Gibbs, Human Resource Manager Elizabeth Wad, and Assistant EMS Director Josh Gering brought the recommendation to the commission. Ward says this is based on guidance from health professionals.

      Elizabeth Ward

Ward says if they do not take protective actions, a large number of employees may be out with the infection.

Gibbs says the number of cases isn’t the most concerning number to her, but the situation at the hospitals.

      Julie Gibbs

Commission Chair John Ford was against the mandate, saying it is the responsibility of the individual to get vaccinated or wear a mask.

      John Ford

The current policy in place is having each department head make the decision of whether masks are mandated or not in their own departments. Ford was in favor of keeping this in place.

Commissioner Greg McKinley says he was irritated by the report that shows the possibility of 200 employees getting infected.

      Greg McKinley

Both McKinley and Ford say that the more they require masks for vaccinated individuals, the less likely others will get vaccinated.

The recommendation came after a department head meeting where 9 of the 12 heads voted for a mandate.

County Clerk Rich Vargo, who was present at the meeting, says the benefit given during the meeting was consistency.

      Rich Vargo

Vargo says there were two important items brought up during that discussion; a potential case tied to a county employee and new information from the EMS department.

Gering says the situation with ambulances is worse than in the previous 18 months.

      Josh Gering

The commission voted to keep the current policy in place. However, they did request data on the number of county employees who are vaccinated and the number of employees who had COVID.

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County government and school board reporter. 2016 Kansas State University graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications. Kansas born and raised.

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