Johnson County passes penalty for public health violations, but not mask wearing


OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County commissioners have passed a motion to impose fines on businesses that do not comply with the county’s public health order.

The vote was 4-3.

A lot of people spoke out against the proposed penalty: a $500 fine for each business violation cited by health officers.

However, this may be another action that doesn’t have a lot of teeth behind it. That’s because commissioners say the proposed penalty does not apply to violations of Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask mandate, only to violations of the county health codes.

All of the mask requirements are coming from the governor’s office, and they are then enforced by the district attorney. The county has opted to follow the governor’s mandate and not impose its own.

The $500 fine will be imposed only for business violations like gathering limits, currently set at no more than 50 in Johnson County, or not having physical distancing of at least six feet of separation in public spaces.

The motion comes on the heels of a public statement by a Mission restaurant owner, who said he does not enforce the state mask mandate.

Still, a steady stream of people opposed to fines for any public health violation made themselves heard before the vote took place.

“People who wear masks get sick,” said Gerald Kasanick, who opposes the proposed fine. “Masks offer no protection. Cloth masks fail at stopping the virus.”

His words about mask effectiveness run counter to guidance from both national health experts at the Centers for Disease Control as well as local medical professionals at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the University of Kansas Health System.

In an interview with FOX4 earlier this month, Dr. Darrin D’Agostino said families gathering for Thanksgiving should wear masks when indoors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Currently, enforcement of the public health order has focused on education to get businesses to comply. If there’s still a problem, written notice of a violation is sent, with a time limit to make changes. If there’s still no compliance, then a business would be cited.

That hasn’t happened yet in Johnson County.

Commissioners said they believe there will be a lot of misunderstanding over enforcement or lack of enforcement, particularly when it comes to mask wearing.



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