BELTON COUNCIL REJECTS PROPOSED MASK ORDINANCE
By Allen Edmonds
Cass County’s quickly rising COVID-19 case count, while sparking concern throughout the business community and some citizen groups, left a solid majority of the Belton City Council unwilling to risk possible backlash from a proposed mask order.
Councilmembers Stephanie Davidson and Lorrie Peek gave impassioned presentations in support of an order, as did citizen Robert Powell, who along with his wife, Pam, own the Main Street Theater and run the Belton Farmer’s Market for Belton Community Projects, Inc.
Powell, a retired chemical engineer, told the council that his last job was in the medical department of a major oil refinery in Texas, where “epidemiologists, toxicologists, environmental scientists, industrial hygienists, medical doctors and nurses not only work to protect the workers’ health but also the community health in the neighborhoods around them near all our sites, and also evaluated the company’s future projects for potential health benefits and effects.
“Whether we were considering a $5 additive to a motor oil or over a billion dollar expansion of process equipment, this company – which was in business only to make money – always took inot account the potential health effects of their decisions,” Powell said.
“True decision-makers always ask for data from scientific input, not anecdote. The scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Cass County Health Department, have data showing that COVID-19 cases are increasing throughout our country, state, county and city and masks have been shown to reduce the exposure from the wearer and those nearby to the virus. They should be worn by everyone.”
Powell said much of the debate boils down to education.
“In our Belton schools, they’re teaching biology, chemistry, physics, math and statistics, so that our children can make it in the business world. Ironically, some of their elders seem to have forgotten that statistically proven data is the basis for decision,” he said.
Davidson and Peek reiterated their positions in favor of a mask mandate from last week’s meeting, with Davidson adding that certain businesses, like QuikTrip, would only mandate face-coverings where masks were required by local government. She also relayed a letter from an individual who recently lost a mother to the virus.
Other councilmembers gave varying accounts of their opposition to such a proposal that centered on their lack of support for demanding by law that citizens cover their faces – though most said they believed it to be wise to wear masks in public.
Countywide, the number known to the Cass County Health Department to be hospitalized with the virus is down from 2 to 1, with no patients on ventilators. Health Department Director Andrew Warlen said his department is not always notified when a patient is released from the hospital, but is notified when a Cass County patient is admitted with the virus.
The percent positive of viral testing, another crucial measure of an outbreak’s intensity, was 3.99 percent as of this past week, down from more than 6 percent last week. This is despite testing results from the drive-through testing on July 14 at Cass Regional Medical Center where 18 of 116 tested were positive (15.5 percent) and the July 16 drive-through event at CRMC where 18 of 95 (34.4 percent) tested positive.
Positivity testing at the drive-through events will be higher than the community-wide positivity rate, however, “because inidividuals tested at our events must be symptomatic or have recent exposure to a positive case. These individuals are going to be more likely than the population as a whole to test positive.”
Positive cases from the Garden City area party of several weeks ago have reached 50, Warlen said.
So, while the case numbers continue to multiply more quickly by the day, key measures used to rate an outbreak’s severity remain in hand, as experts look at hospitalization and percent positive numbers to determine whether a community is in need of further actions, such as stay-at-home orders.