Farmer who lost brother to COVID-19 fights for mask mandate in Miami County

Ray Bingman
Posted at 8:45 PM, Nov 19, 2020

SPRING HILL, Kan. — When Ray Bingman took his last breath, his younger brother, Kenneth, was standing outside of the window watching.

“When the oximeter reading got to about 43, he was gasping with every bit of energy in his weakened body to try and breathe,” Bingman said. “We told him we loved him. We told him we were there for him.”

Ray died in the early-morning on a Monday only four days after he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Now, Kenneth is on a mission to turn his pain into purpose, advocating for a mask mandate in Miami County.

“The numbers, we threw them around as though they don’t mean anything other than just numbers, but behind each number there is a real story,” Kenneth said.

The Miami County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution in July opting out of Gov. Laura Kelly's executive order, which would have required a county-wide mask mandate.

Instead, Miami County commissioners left the choice to require masks or face coverings up to the discretion of individual businesses and public entities.

But COVID-19 cases in the state soar, including 823 since the start of the pandemic in Miami County, that decision must be revisited.

Kelly announced a new executive order Wednesday, establishing a statewide mask mandate again.

During a press conference to announce the change, Kelly admitted that a “one-size-fits all approach can be difficult for some communities to navigate,” so she is giving county commissions one week to develop their own mask mandates.

If a county does not act by Nov. 25, “they’ll automatically be opted into our standard face covering protocol,” Kelly said.

The Miami County Board of County Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Monday to discuss the governor's executive order.

While he voted against a county-wide mask mandate in July, Miami County Commission Chairman Phil Dixon said his opinion has since changed and he would like to see a mandate in place.

Kenneth will be delighted to hear that at least one commissioner may have had a change of heart.

“The CDC says that wearing masks by the population could save 100,000 Ray Bingmans — brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers ...," Kenneth said. "That’s worth doing."