Medical director implores

wearing mask


I am writing, as a physician and a friend, to implore you to wear a mask. We are in a very bad situation that has arisen with the COVID pandemic. It is on the brink of overwhelming the medical system.  There has been a big surge of new cases with a significant number of very sick people across the state of Kansas.  This could impact you and your loved ones directly. 

I work on the front line in the hospital and can tell you that this virus is no joke to many people. I have personally intubated people under the age of 50, right here in Chanute. As severity of cases increase and the number of cases statewide increase, it is getting extremely hard to transfer a patient out of southeast Kansas to the city as there are no beds available at all of the tertiary hospitals. There have not been any ICU beds reported as available in Wichita for a month. 

I have not been successful in getting a patient bed at KU for a month. For one ICU patient, we had to call 14 facilities to find an ICU bed. This isn’t a problem just for our hospital, my colleagues across the region are facing very similar situations.

There is a false narrative out there that this is a mild illness. While this may be true for a large percentage of the people, it is not true in the vulnerable and the random healthy person. There is mounting evidence that masking and other precautions such as social distancing and hand sanitization help slow the spread of COVID. There is almost no downside to masking in general. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, public health precautions have become politicized. I understand that it is a person’s right to choose to do what they may with their own health, however, it is not their right to endanger others.  

Let us all come together to slow the spread of this deadly virus until we have broad access to a vaccine that people may choose to take to protect themselves.

I am urging our elected officials, our business leaders, and our community members, to opt-in to the statewide mask mandate. The life you may save may be your neighbors. 

Brian Kueser, MD

Medical Director 

Neosho County Health Department

Chief of Emergency Medicine, NMRMC


Mask mandate

about saving lives


I would like to respond to the Neosho County’s failure to opt-in to Governor Kelly’s mask mandate last week.

On Facebook, one person, referring to Commissioner Klaassen, asked, “Have you ever considered that maybe you’re in the minority? Perhaps she is representing her constituents well.”

Does “representing her constituents well” mean a count of the letters to the commissioners who want the mandate vs. those who do not? Should an opinion from an average citizen – either for or against – carry as much weight as the pleas from our doctors who know exactly what’s happening in our hospitals? I do want my opinion heard, but when dealing with something as serious as a pandemic, I believe that professional and expert opinions should carry more weight.

After the commission rescinded the mask mandate on November 19, Dr. Kueser – Medical Director of the Neosho County Health Department – wrote a second letter imploring the commissioners to opt-in to the mask mandate. Dr. Kueser is on the frontline of the crisis, fighting for the citizens of Neosho County and trying desperately to locate beds in the state to take the serious cases, because the NMRMC has none. His opinion should carry immense weight.

Over the last 9 months, we’ve had to guess at how bad the situation is. Now it’s out of control, and many people are making excuses for it. Legally, we can’t be told who has the virus, who is in ICU, and who has permanent damage due to COVID-19, but I almost wish we could. I think it would help us understand how many of those affected are our friends and neighbors and relatives and the loved ones of our friends and neighbors. Almost daily now, I hear from people who say that they lost someone close to them from the virus. It’s heartbreaking.

But all we see are numbers, and those numbers are almost useless. We’ve had more deaths in Neosho County than the three reported so far, but those deaths have been attributed to the counties where the individuals reside (or used to reside). They may have contracted the virus here and perhaps died here but go on another county’s count. It lulls many into a false sense that the situation is not that bad in our county.

It’s not getting better and it’s not going away.

The hospitals in Kansas and the surrounding states are so full of COVID-related patients that normal emergency services are affected. Accidents, non-COVID-related medical emergencies, and other reasons people need our hospital’s emergency services are compromised.

Mr. Westhoff said, “I’m not going to take their rights away.”

What rights? Please tell us. Exactly what rights are you taking away with a mask mandate. In your government role, you must know what rights are being trampled upon by requesting that people wear masks.

He also said, “There’s no way we can enforce it.”

Of course there are ways. Other counties are doing it. Why don’t the commissioners contact some of them and see how it’s being done. Why don’t they find some similarly sized counties and reach out to them? Who wants to hear from a leader of our county that “there’s no way” to accomplish something this important?

Mrs. Klaassen handed out charts of counties with COVID numbers and asked Commissioner Orr to identify which ones had mask mandates and which ones didn’t. I assume her point was that one would not be able to tell by looking at the numbers.

In November, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported, “Kansas counties that had mask mandates in place appear to have mitigated the transmission of COVID-19, whereas counties that did not have mask mandates continued to experience increases in cases.” That’s the study we should believe.

Commissioner Klaassen also said, “We just need to use common sense.”

Right. Common sense. The lack of common sense in our county is why we have reached this crisis stage.

A mask mandate is not a life sentence. It’s a temporary means to reduce the positive COVID cases. It has nothing to do with freedom or rights. It’s about saving lives.

Do it until the most vulnerable citizens of Neosho County are vaccinated and safe from the virus.

Do it until we can get our numbers down and free up ICU beds in Kansas.

Do it before things get even worse.

Do it for the doctors and other healthcare workers who are exhausted from the fight.

Just do it.

Cynthia Morrison



Whaley: Fish

took the bait


Phil Chaney baited his hook and cast it out into the middle of the pond.

The fish took the bait. Now we must wait and see if it has any long-term effect.

Jim Whaley






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