Parsons Police Department sees high rate of compliance with mask ordinance
City council extends mask ordinance to December 7th.
PARSONS, Kan. – Parsons Police Sergeant Cheryl Landon says it’s fitting that she was put in charge of mandate inspections, considering she is one of the now 11 members of the police department who has had COVID-19.
“It was pretty bad,” says Landon. “I had to take breathing treatments, I was on steroids. It was pretty tough getting through it. Luckily the department was real helpful. Everybody had to cover my shifts. Nobody complained. So I don’t complain about wearing the mask. Most of the department, even if they don’t like it, we’re still compliant.”
She came back to work on August 12th, and was then put in charge of the set of officers who are tasked with doing surprise compliance checks for the city’s mask ordinance.
“I thought it was gonna be very very hard to do. And so, I went into it with that thought. I got organized and was like, alright, it has to be done, so let’s get it done,” explains Landon. “And so I was relieved when it wasn’t. The city made it very easy. Business owners made it very easy. You know what, even our businesses that are not compliant, they haven’t given us attitude.”
The police department started enforcing the ordinance in August, with the goal of making sure that places of public accommodation were following the guidelines of the mandate. Those include posting signs by doors that say that masks are required under city ordinance and requiring all employees who have contact with the public to wear masks.
“We did them once or twice a week until we completed them all. And then we gave two weeks, if not three, for the ones that did not comply. Because in the beginning, we had seven,” says Landon. “And so, for those seven, we did not go back for about two and a half, three weeks. Then we rechecked those businesses, and we were down to one that was non-compliant.”
“We’ve inspected 77 businesses in town. Of that, we’ve had a 93 and a half percent level of voluntary compliance. Which to me is a home run,” says Parsons Police Chief Robert Spinks. “We’ve issued one citation, and we’ve issued less than two dozen verbal warnings in our general day to day operations. So, by and large, the folks in Parsons are stepping up, they’re masking up.”
But since the ordinance was passed in July, there has been contention. Business owners and residents alike have voiced their opposition. They’ve said that the decision to make customers wear masks should be left up to individual business owners and that forcing people to wear masks would drive business away. A handful of business owners that we reached out to, which didn’t want to be named in this report, say they are now seeing people go to Chanute and Independence instead of shopping in Parsons.
A situation that is making them more frustrated about the city’s decision to extend the mask mandate until December 7th.
“I respect their position and their point of view. I don’t necessarily agree with it,” says Parsons Mayor Jeff Perez.
Perez says the city decided to extend the ordinance to make sure that they didn’t see a spike in cases right as cold and flu season is rolling around.
“The priority is to ensure we can all do our part to reduce the risk of transmission,” says Perez.
Now that the ordinance has been extended, Spinks hopes that residents and businesses will continue to comply, so they can maintain a more relaxed method of enforcement.
“The next several weeks are gonna tell, and that will help us to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the ordinance and whether it should be extended,” Spinks says. “Or, you know, maybe we’ll see a light at the end of the tunnel with COVID-19.”
Under the ordinance, a first noncompliance offense is a warning. The second is a small fine that can be waived if the offender shows up for court. The third offense brings a 50 dollar citation.
There have been 230 total cases of COVID-19 in Labette County. Parsons is the only city in Labette County with a mask mandate.
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