"What’s the harm?”: Pittsburg businesses and citizens weigh in on new mask recommendations and the possibility of another mandate

Jordan Meier

PITTSBURG, Kan. — After weeks of surging cases due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, the CDC announced Tuesday afternoon that they are now recommending all US adults where a mask indoors, no matter their vaccination status, when in places of high transmission—such as restaurants, stores, bars, schools, etc. While this is not a mandate, many businesses are now considering returning to requiring masks.  

In Pittsburg, local restaurant Toast already reinstated some form of masking within its establishment.  

“It is, and has been, our priority to keep our employees and customers (and their families) as safe as possible throughout the pandemic,” Toast posted on Instagram.  

“We will be requiring all employees to wear masks. We will be pleading with guests to wear masks, but we will not enforce them until our local officials step up and mandate them. We are tired folks. We are tired of fighting those who do not want to mask. We highly encourage you to do so and we appreciate the compliance.”  

Some locals and southeast Kansas residents also expressed their support for masking, and another possible mandate, if local health officials decide to go that route.  

“If that’s what it takes to stay healthy,” said Stephen Doherty, a graduate of Pittsburg State University who was waiting outside Bath and Body Works at the mall Thursday morning maskless, “what’s the harm?”  

Ronny Kellog, who was also at the mall waiting for the Mall Deli to open and lives north of town, also said he would continue to wear a mask if that’s what was recommended, not just to protect himself but others too.  

“We had our shots,” Kellog said, “but we’ve seen on television that you’re supposed to wear the mask because I might be a carrier of it.”  

“I don’t know, whatever it takes to get rid of this stuff.”  

Judy, a resident of Independence, Kansas, who came to Pittsburg to shop at JC Penny’s, added that wearing a mask helps protect those who can’t get vaccinated.  

“You’ve got to wear one to protect the kids, those little kids that don’t have a choice whether or not to get vaccinated,” she said. “I mean I also have kept wearing mine for my parents. They’re in their 80s and I want to protect them.”  

But not everyone is apparently happy about the idea of wearing masks again.  

“We’re anti-maskers,” said a woman who was at the mall with her family Thursday but declined to give her name.  

Additionally, earlier this week at the USD 250 school board meeting, County Health Officer Dr. Tim Stebbins when discussing the possibility of masking in schools said that the county seems to be split 50-50 on the issue.  

“Fifty percent of the population of the county wants masks for everybody,” he said. “Fifty percent of the population does not want masks ever for anybody.”  

Whether or not a new mask mandate will be made is yet be seen, but it will be up to the county commission to decide whether or not that is the action to take.