By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
Salina City Commissioners dealt with several COVID-19 related issues during their regular meeting this afternoon.
The meeting itself was a product of pandemic life as commissioners met via Zoom. Citizens were allowed to comment via Zoom or could simply watch the proceedings via the city's YouTube channel. The change in meeting format was a result of the county's recent public health order regarding COVID-19. The commission will continue to meet via Zoom until further notice.
City Manager Mike Schrage updated the commissioners concerning the county's public health order that was issued Friday. Schrage told commissioners that there wasn't necessarily any action that they needed to take in regard to the health order, however he reminded them that they could "take separate and distinct action" as it pertains to the city if they didn't agree with something in the county's order.
"That's kind of in contradiction to the motion you passed a week ago acknowledging the role of the health department and the county commission. It certainly could create a lot of disconnect and possible confusion between what we might do and what the county might do. I think our intention all along has been to be as coordinated as possible between the city and the county," he said.
Schrage reminded commissioners that the Uniform Public Offense Code, which the city typically adopts annually, includes a violation that addresses failing to abide by a health order.
"So we already have by way of our adoption of the UPOC sufficient provisions in our code to make whatever gets adopted as a health order a city code violation," he said.
Commissioners also considered revising the city's ordinance requiring the wearing of masks or face coverings in public spaces. Schrage noted that during the commission meeting a week ago, commissioners directed city staff to prepare an amendment to the ordinance for consideration this week.
"The gist of it was that you tasked staff with preparing an amendment for your consideration to clarify that facemasks should be worn in indoor public spaces regardless of social distancing when another person is present," Schrage said.
"So essentially, the only change that this ordinance as it is presented to you currently makes is it eliminates any references to 'when social distancing can't be maintained'," he continued. "If you're in an indoor space and there's more than one person present in that space, the expectation is that you wear a mask unless you qualify for one of the exemptions stated in the ordinance."
After listening to public comment, the commissioners heard both the first and second readings of the ordinance and approved it unanimously. It will take effect as soon as it is published in the official county newspaper -- the Salina Journal -- which Schrage thought could be as early as this weekend. He said the city would notify the commissioners and the public as soon as a publication date is known.
For a draft copy of the ordinance approved, click here.
During the discussion on the ordinance, it was noted that Salina Regional Health Center (SRHC) receives COVID-19 patients from a number of area counties, some of which have no mask mandates. Commissioners discussed sending a letter to other counties in the area stressing the importance of mask mandates and other health issues that might limit the spread of COVID-19 in order to potentially lessen the patient load on SRHC. City staff was directed to draft such a letter.
Additionally, commissioners unanimously approved closing the Salina Fieldhouse on a temporary basis, given the recent county public health order, until such time as it is safe to reopen.