Wichita will help enforce Sedgwick County health order

The city of Wichita will be helping with the enforcement of a health order issued by Sedgwick County that requires face masks and puts limits on occupancy and mass gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The City Council voted Thursday to provide support to the county in enforcing the order.   It requires masks and face coverings in public places, mass gatherings will be limited to 100 people or 50 percent of fire code capacity, whichever is less.   Bars and nightclubs will have to close at 11 p.m, and there is a six-foot social distancing requirement.   The order will be enforced in the unincorporated areas of the county, but cities and towns can opt in to help with enforcement.

City Manager Robert Layton said the city is playing a supporting role in enforcement and city staff will not be involved in writing citations.  Any violations would be reported to the County Counselor’s office and county staff would issue citations.   Violations could draw a fine of up to $500.

The council voted 5-2 to join the enforcement effort, with council members Jeff Blubaugh and James Clendenin voting no.  The Sedgwick County Commission will have to give its approval before the agreement with Wichita goes into effect.

The council heard from Wesley Medical Center president Bill Voloch and chief medical officer Dr. Lowell Ebersole, and they talked about a need for more restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  They spoke to Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday and said they could be dealing with 200 COVID-19 patients by the end of the year, or the number could be even higher.    Voloch and Ebersole and a Wesley staff committee are calling for bars to be closed and restaurants limited to takeout service only, and public gatherings should be limited to ten people or less.  The county is considering a new health order that could include the stronger restrictions.