County-wide mask mandate extended

(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

On Thursday, the Riley County commissioners voted to extend the mask mandate through Sunday, May 16, requiring face coverings in public spaces until the end of the academic year at least.

This extension has no bearing on the order in place within city of Manhattan limits, however. The city has its own mask mandate that institutes penalties against parties found out of compliance.

The county also approved public health order No. 21. Similar to the previous order, the current ordinance does not require event registration permits nor does it impose a limit to gathering size. Beyond face covering policies, there are also no restrictions on business operations.

“Actions taken so far have demonstrated significant success in flattening the epidemic curve to prevent overwhelming our local health care system’s ability to care for the number of residents who might develop severe symptoms,” local health officer Julie Gibbs said in a press release.

Though not required, Gibbs still recommends county residents engage in social distancing practices and use good hand hygiene regularly.

Previously, Gibbs said the Riley County Health Department would consider imposing more restrictive COVID-19 mitigation requirements if the case number and positivity rate trajectory changed. For the week of March 14, the community positivity rate was below two percent.

Kansas State, on the other hand, has not changed its COVID-19 restrictions or campus policies. Under the current phase in the Reawakening protocol — Phase 3 — face coverings are required at all times on campus property and gatherings are still limited to 50 people.

However, K-State announced tentative plans to enter phase-out beginning Aug. 1. What exactly that will look like is unknown at this time, but Lafene Medical Center’s medical director Dr. Kyle Goerl expects the next academic year to look more normal.

“If we stay on the same trajectory, this is definitely a breath of fresh air and it leaves us feeling pretty hopeful for the fall semester that things are looking a lot more like normal than they look like in the 20-21 year,” Goerl said previously.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.