HAYS—The Ellis County Commission on Monday took no action to require wearing a mask in Ellis County.
Following lengthy discussion about COVID-19 and a report from Ellis County Health Services director Jason Kennedy, the commissioners to a one expressed disinterest in requiring masks.
In stating his choice, Commission Chair Butch Schlyer, who has a nursing degree and who for 23 years was Ellis County health administrator, talked about his experience years ago going through the SARS and H1N1 virus epidemics, and protocols and surveillance guidance of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, including social distancing.
"They never brought up putting a mask on, and that’s because a mask won’t stop a damn virus, and that’s just fact," Schlyer said.
All weekend he researched masking, Schlyer said, and noted the size of the COVID-19 virus is little more than a micron.
"It would be like if I put chicken wire on my windows and thought it would keep out the flies and mosquitos. It just doesn’t work," Schlyer said. "While it’s fine if people want to wear one for their own comfort, he said, "your mask is not protecting me."
He cited what he described as conflicting expert medical advice.
"To me this all sounds like a bunch of ducks farting underwater," Schlyer said. "All I’m hearing is a bunch of gurgling nonsense anymore. But I will be damned if I’m going to try and infringe on the rights of these people, to take away what little liberties we have left."
Commissioner Dustin Roths criticized the news media, saying the reporting is about getting gotcha quotes. Comments on social media are aimed at shaming the commissioners and saying they don’t care, he said.
"I thought about what would happen if I wasn’t in this chair. I thought about if we create a precedence of jumping to conclusions or governing on fear, what that would look like in the future? How quickly would others jump to take our rights away from us, and our own personal autonomy and responsibility for ourselves, for our family?" Roths said. "I also thank God that this thing doesn’t affect kids. I honestly think that my fatherly instinct would come out if I felt like kids were going to be affected extremely negatively, like those in their elderly age are."
Roths said he’s sick of talking about the virus and of the news media.
"They don’t want to talk about the good things we do as a board," he said. "Because they are so desperate for us to have bad numbers of COVID-19 cases."