While COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise, people have conflicting decisions about wearing face masks to help mitigate the spread.

The decision sometimes has been left up to counties, cities or individual businesses whether to require wearing masks, and a random check with Chanute businesses ranged from requiring masks to letting customers decide.

Walmart and Sam’s stores announced nationally on Wednesday that they will require all customers to wear face masks starting Monday. National retailers Costco, Best Buy and Starbucks, which are not in Chanute, also said they would require masks.

In downtown Chanute, Cardinal Drug pharmacist Joel Norris said he is leaving the decision up to customers and is not asking people to wear masks. The store sells both disposable and cloth masks in adult and children’s sizes, and several customers were wearing masks or had them available.

“My mask is to protect you,” customer Leonard Gahagan said, although he added, “Pretty hard to drink coffee with a mask on.”

“It’s a two-way street,” customer John Allen said.

Consignment owner Cora Finley is also leaving the mask decision up to customers.

“Wear them if you want,” she said. “It’s the same with my employees. It should be a person’s choice.”

She sells both disposable and cloth masks at her cost.

“We don’t really want to make a profit off of them,” she said.

Some masks include a pocket for a filter, which Finley also sells.

She sold masks from home during the time the store was closed, and calculated she has sold 4,000 masks since the outbreak began.

Opie’s restaurant does not post a mask requirement, but it does reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. Eating establishments commonly refuse service to people without shirts or shoes for sanitary reasons.

At the Chanute Plaza shopping center, Shoe Department requires masks by a corporate decision.

Store manager Jackie Booe said Chanute customers were pretty compliant and there has not been much backlash, although the Parsons store had some issues.

Maurice’s clothing store also requires masks, although store manager Aspen Chaney said they do allow customers to shop without them. She said they have sold out of cloth masks, and provide some for customers who need them.

Binge Boutique owner Janelle Page said she does not require masks, but a lot of her transactions are one-on-one where they can maintain social distance.

The US Cellular store has a posted mask requirements, but has some available for customers without them.

Cleaver Farm & Home does not have mask requirements posted, but has a warning not to enter if customers have symptoms. Employees do not wear masks.

The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum does not require masks, but asks people to wear them and to socially distance. Disposable masks are available for sale or for visitors to use, and locally-made cloth masks are available for sale.

In the Chanute Marketplace shopping center, Hibbett Sports does not require mask wearing, but limits occupants to 15 people including employees, who do not wear masks. Dollar Tree employees wear masks, but they are sometimes worn improperly.


Masked bank customers?

At Bank of Commerce, masks are not required so as to make customers feel comfortable, and few employees wear them.

“We certainly don’t discourage them,” Chief Information Officer Mike Aylward said. “We deal with that at Halloween. That’s only one day a year.” 

Although wearing a face mask in a bank could be seen as a sign of impending trouble, employees have other red flags and Aylward said tellers are trained to deal with the potential for armed robbery, whether with or without face masks.

Commercial Bank vice president Tim Fairchild laughed when asked about masks as a security risk.

“When the mask thing started, we talked about it,” he said.

Fairchild, while wearing a mask, said it is optional for the bank and employees wear masks while working with customers.

“This is a ‘Sunday go to meeting’ mask,” he said.

He said employees know many customers, but will ask to see someone if they can’t recognize them because of a mask. The bank provides masks for customers.

Fairchild said wearing a mask is not a significant inconvenience.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said.

Allen County commissioners were among just 13 of 105 counties that chose to go along with Gov. Kelly’s mandate, where opting out at the county level was allowed. Both Neosho County and Chanute city commissioners voted to opt out. In Labette County, commissioners voted 2-1 to opt out, but Parsons commissioners set a city-wide mask requirement.

In Sedgwick County, county commissioners voted to opt out, but Wichita commissioners opted back in within city limits. The county commission then voted their own requirement.

The Humboldt city council voted Monday against opening the city swimming pool. The Kansas State Fair Board reversed an earlier decision and cancelled this year’s fair.

In Kansas City, Kans., a customer who was asked to put on a mask at a barbecue restaurant refused and showed a gun. Kansas law does not prohibit open firearms carry while wearing a mask.

A Michigan man who stabbed an older man in a dispute over not wearing a mask was shot by police and later died. Michigan began requiring masks Monday by a governor’s order.

Masks are required at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., for visitors over the age of 3. The park also has contactless temperature screening.

A proposed ordinance in Tulsa has exemptions for eating and drinking, swimming, public speaking, dental work, bank security, religious worship or other cases.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued executive orders March 13 at the start of the pandemic, and Kansas began reopening May 1, after 5,385 cases tested positive with 263 new cases that day. For a seven-day period, Kansas had the fewest number of new cases June 1 to June 7, with 670. By June 8, there were 10,796 total cases.

Neosho County had just two cases June 2 and five cases June 12.

As of Wednesday’s update, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 20,933 cases statewide since the start of the outbreak, with 299 deaths. The highest number of cases reported in one day was 489 on July 7.

Neosho County is up to 46 cases, KDHE reported, which is 2.9 cases for every 1,000 people. Neosho County has tested 783 people.

That compares to 328 cases or 8.4 per thousand in Crawford County, 76 or 3.9 per thousand in Labette, and 69 cases or 2.2 per thousand in Montgomery County. Woodson, Bourbon and Cherokee counties also have 2.9 cases per thousand.


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