County news

An Abilene area resident addressed Dickinson County Commissioners on July 9, asking them to consider removing Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s mask mandate.

Rural Abilene resident Kylie Hicken told commissioners she was not anti-mask, but rather “anti-mandate.” 

Dickinson County Commissioners voted July 2 to follow the governor’s executive order requiring Kansans to wear face masks, but most Kansas counties opted out. County commissions have the option to accept or override the governor’s order.

Hicken, who said she is a wife, mother and business owner, explained she is not “anti-science” and gave a number of reasons why she felt the mandate should be removed.

Hicken said at one time she was involved in the study of science microbiology and some of her work was published in several scientific journals. She encouraged commissioners to “Google” her maiden name, Kylie Hoover, for verification.

“Science should always be evolving, but should not be constantly contradicting and should not be flip-flopping to suit political agendas,” she said, explaining she could cite numerous scientific studies which show masks will not stop COVID-19.

Despite the news about the severity of the disease, Hicken said the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is reporting the percentage of deaths due to COVID-related illness is so low they “are hovering at the threshold of even calling it an epidemic.”

Economic/psychological

impact

Hicken said the reason she decided to speak to the commission concerns the economic impact on businesses, problems like mask shaming and the psychological impact on children in the future.

As a business owner, she feels it’s a problem for Dickinson County businesses when nearby counties are not requiring masks. Also, mask usage is a divisive issue. 

“We hear a lot of comments of mask shaming,” she said, explaining the fear of being shamed deters people from going into businesses and that worries her from an economic standpoint.

On a personal level, she is concerned about the effect on young children. While statistics say youth — especially those younger than 15 — are low risk when it comes to COVID-19 compared to the regular flu, children are getting mixed messages.

“I’m trying to tell my children this is not something you should be scared of, but they go into the public and they see everyone wearing masks and it’s a very different impact for them psychologically,” she said. “I’m trying to protect my children. We don’t know what that’s going to do to them psychologically going forward. As a mom I’m trying to keep them home right now. I don’t want them out until this mandate is lifted.”

Vaccine or herd

immunity

Based on her scientific background, Hicken said there are only two ways to get through the pandemic: One, people must either build natural immunity; or two, a vaccine must be developed.

As for a vaccine, typically vaccines only have about a 70 percent effective rate, plus only 50 to 60 percent of the population will be vaccinated, she said.

“That’s not enough to reach herd immunity,” she said, explaining the only way to get through this situation is for healthy people — “who 85 percent of the time” are going to be asymptomatic — to get the virus.

 “By not wearing masks — to say this in the most blunt way possible — is really the only way for the community in the end to get through this,” Hicken said. “Again, that comes off sometimes harsh from a public standpoint,” but added that information should be considered.

Roller responds

Commissioner Ron Roller told Hicken he was not very educated when it comes to viruses, but as a commissioner he has to look at the community as a whole and his personal wishes and views “mean nothing to that.”

“We are responsible for ‘we’ and believe it or not we’re in this together — all of us. I don’t think there’s a commissioner here who wants to wear these masks. We despise them,” Roller said, commenting he wishes the answer were simple. 

“We’re onstage and we’re responsible for everybody. Once you’re in the heat on the fire your perception and decision-making changes and you look at things a little differently.”

Roller told Hicken he appreciates what she said and agreed that businesses are very important to the county. He noted the county is involved in the SPARKS program — a federal initiative to help government entities and businesses that have experienced losses due to COVID-19.

Since endorsing the governor’s order, commissioners have heard from a number of people expressing disappointment with the decision. Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Craig Chamberlin said he was printing off a number of emails regarding the decision and later read some of the comments.

Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said he had received phone calls and mail.

“We continue to take that information and also listen to what the medical people are telling us in that particular area,” Peterson said. “We certainly have a high area of concern.”

The July 9 meeting can be viewed online by visiting www.dkcoks.org and going to the commissioner’s page and clicking on the “commission meeting videos” link.  

Third ambulance rehab

Conducting routine business, the commission voted to buy a Ford F550 Chassis for $63,983.60 from Olathe Ford Fleet Management to remount the ambulance box from a worn out Dickinson County ambulance onto a new truck base

Rather than buying new ambulances, the county began a replacement program a year ago which involves taking the ambulance box off, then rehabbing it and remounting it on a new chassis.

This remount project originally was scheduled in the 2021 capital plan, but the coronavirus pandemic caused local officials to move up the timeline.

“They (the dealership) have a truck on the lot currently we can purchase. We have a fear if something happens and the Ford factory shuts down like it did earlier, that truck may not be available next year,” Homman said.

“With the pandemic and everything going on, we really don’t feel we can afford to have a truck break down like that,” he explained.

The old International vehicle has a history of breakdowns and other problems.

Also, with money coming from the federal government to reimburse local entities for COVID-related expenses, the county is hoping to get some reimbursement funds.

“We need to get it purchased during this time frame so we can be reimbursed for it,” Homman said. “We’ve got the money in the capital plan to do it now. Worst case scenario if we get turned down for that, we’ve still got to do that anyhow (remount the chassis).”

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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