Sedgwick County to enforce new health order

Sedgwick County commissioners have approved a resolution that will allow the county to enforce a new health order that went into effect Wednesday.

The health order puts a limit on mass gatherings of 100 people or 50 percent of the fire code capacity, whichever is less.   This will apply to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, fitness and health centers that have patrons not wearing masks for a longer period of time.   Bars and nightclubs will have to close at 11 p.m. but they can continue carryout and curbside services past midnight.    Retail stores are not considered mass gatherings but they would be limited to 50 percent of fire code capacity, with concerns about social distancing and the approaching holiday shopping season.   There are exemptions for religious events, weddings, funerals, schools and school activities, licensed child care facilities and courts.  The order will be in effect until December 31st.

Assistant county counselor Justin Waggoner said the health order will be enforced in the unincorporated areas.  Wichita and other cities in the county can opt in for enforcement with approval of their governing bodies.   Waggoner said any violations or non compliance of the order would be subject to a fine of up to $500 in fines plus $20 in court costs, and the violation would be classified as a misdemeanor.    No jail time would be involved.

County manager Tom Stolz said a law enforcement officer would have to file a complaint with the health department, then the county would send a warning letter to the business that is in violation.   Any further violations would be reported to the health department, then the county’s legal staff would make a complaint that would be served by an inspector, and the case would be prosecuted in county court.

Stolz said “We’re really not anticipating having to use this very much.  We hope we don’t, but we have to have some type of tool in the tool box for these blatant examples where they are not even remotely close to adhering to Dr. Minns’ order.”

County staff will be working to notify businesses and local governments about the health order and the new enforcement effort.