Johnson County DA receives nearly 170 complaints within 1st week of mask mandate

Face Mask
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 19:56:01-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Thursday marks one week since the Johnson County Board of Commissioners adopted Gov. Laura Kelly's statewide mask mandate.

Since the 4-2-1 vote that put the order in effect in the county, the Johnson County District Attorney's office has received 169 complaints of violators.

District Attorney Steve Howe said the complaints will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and the majority of them are about businesses not requiring employees to wear masks or allowing customers inside without masks.

When it comes to enforcement of the mandate, Howe said a bill passed by the Kansas Legislature in June removed the misdemeanor charges for violations of executive orders. The law allows for a civil violation with a fine of up to $2,500.

However, Howe said he would rather use information and education to enforce the order.

"Just like when we did the stay-at-home order, we found it was effective to talk to people and educate them about the reasons why it's important to follow those executive orders," Howe said.

It is ultimately up to business owners to enforce the order with their customers because, according to Howe, the DA's office isn't allowed to give businesses legal advice on how to handle enforcement.

"It's a lot like when you see signs that say, 'No shirt, no shoes, no service,'-type approach," Howe said. "It's very similar in that and so each company is going to have to decide how to approach that situation."

Director of Johnson County Health and Environment Dr. Sanmi Areola said he likes what he's seeing so far with the mask wearing, but the county still has more work to do.

"We are at a tipping point," Areola said. "We are at a critical point. We can have control over this virus if we do the right thing, but we can quickly lose control, and we've seen other places that have."

Currently, Areola said the county is seeing at least 100 cases per day, which is a drastic increase in a short period of time.

"We don't want to go from over 100 people being infected daily to 200," Areola said. "That's a major problem."

He said he is nervous for the surge in cases that will pop up two weeks after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Areola also addressed the herd immunity logic he has seen from people who are against wearing masks.

"People thinking that the more people that get infected, the more quickly we can get out of this, that just does not work," Areola said. "We have seen countries that have used that as a primary approach, and that has failed."

He is urging people to continue to wear masks, stay home if they are sick and practice social distancing.

"We would be able to avoid having to implement more stringent measures," Areola said. "We would be able to get our children to school as quickly as possible, and it would be quicker for us to return to life as we know it."