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Wichita Mayor: City Will Enforce New County Health Order

Beth Golay
KMUW/File photo
Mayor Brandon Whipple says the city will take action against businesses that don't follow the county's new health order.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple says the city will take action against businesses that openly defy a new county health order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking Thursday during his weekly media briefing, Whipple says the city will try to educate businesses first about following the new guidelines. But if that doesn’t work, it will report the violations to Sedgwick County, which is in charge of enforcing the mandate.

"I think we're looking towards the type of businesses that bring people into a room and make a lot of money … and are doing so knowing full well that they are putting those people at risk and putting our entire community at risk," Whipple said.

Whipple himself is in quarantine after City Council member Brandon Johnson tested positive over the weekend. Whipple held his weekly briefing remotely from his home.

Sedgwick County passed a new health order this week as coronavirus cases continue to climb. Cases have risen nearly 40% in the last month and hospitalizations have doubled in the same period.

Hospital officials told the county last week their facilities are at capacity.

"So we're at the point now where if we don't start changing behavior today … we could get to the point where there's not a hospital bed for you," Whipple said.

The new county order limits bars, nightclubs, restaurants and social venues that serve alcohol to 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.

Retail businesses are also capped at 50% capacity, as are fitness centers and health clubs.

The order also continues the county’s mask mandate, which Whipple says the city will try to enforce through education, not punishment.

“So what we don't want to do is chase Mom who goes into the gas station, leaves her mask in a car," he said. "We are not looking at this point to really crashing down hard … on individuals."

Whipple said the county saw a spike in cases after Labor Day, and it’s possible the same thing could occur after Thanksgiving. He said it’s important people take precautions through the holidays.

"If we don't have people who are vigilant, who are either creating smaller groups or having safer interactions," Whipple said, "we're going to have good people who think they're OK … pass (the virus) along to Mom or pass along to Grandma who will wind up in the hospital right now, which is already at capacity."

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.