Riley County to include mask recommendation in next local health order


The Riley County Commission Monday gave consensus to put a mask recommendation into the county’s next local health order.

Commissioners debated the language of the mask recommendation. With Manhattan’s mask ordinance, the commission didn’t want to mandate masks for residents living outside the city, nor have language that closely resembled that.

Commissioner John Ford stated the order needed to include the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and suggested the phrase “strongly encouraged” for masks.

“Given the dynamics of everything and where we’re going to be the next couple months or so, I thought back and forth on whether a strong recommendation for masks and hygiene just general education information shouldn’t be included in the next order and strongly encouraged,” he said.

But Commission Chair Marvin Rodriguez opposed the term “strongly encouraged,” reiterating his disapproval of mask mandates and calling them government overreach, infringing on people’s liberties.

“I don’t want a strong recommendation, I just want to say recommend that you wear one if you want,” he said. “When you say that (strongly) you start leaning more and more and all of a sudden it becomes more and more and more.  The city has already told us that girls can go around half-naked, but you still have to wear a mask. That to me is contradictory.”

Commissioner Ron Wells said he was fine with however the wording was stated, as long as it included a recommendation.

“The city has done a very good job with the businesses and everywhere I’ve been, I think it’s gone very well. My goal is how we apply it in the county,” he said.

Health Department Director Julie Gibbs echoed Commissioner Ford, also suggesting the phrase “strongly recommended,” but the commission ultimately voted to omit the word “strongly” from the next health order, which will be announced Friday and go into effect Monday, July 20. Gibbs is hopeful that the order won’t introduce any stricter health restrictions, saying they’re watching statistics closely this week.

“We might see some of the effects from 4th of July weekend and some of the gatherings,” she said.

As of Monday, Riley County reported 18 new positive COVID-19 tests from three days prior as well as nine more recoveries.

Riley and Pottawatomie County statistics are shared below from Monday, July 13.

Riley County Statistics for Monday, July 13, 2020:

  • Total positive cases in Riley County Residents: 355**
  • Total Active: 150
  • Total Recovered: 202
  • Currently Hospitalized: 0
  • Total deaths: 3
  • Pending test results: 169
  • Negative test results: 3,437
  • Gender: Female: 43.7% (155)   Male: 56.3% (200)
  • Average age: 30.1 years


State of Kansas

Pottawatomie County

Total positive COVID-19 cases

20,058 (+1,447)

92 (+3) = 7 Active;   85 Recovered

25 Pending*

Total COVID-19 hospitalizations

1,343 (+39)


Current known PT Co. hospitalizations

COVID-19 related deaths

288 (+4)


Total Tests

231,175 (+13,396)

1612 (+40)




About Author

Sam Hennigh

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

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