Shawnee County Health Officer addresses concern over mask recommendations for retailers

Local News

Because of a delivery bottleneck for professional face masks during covid-19 pandemic a lot of people started to organize DIY production of face masks at home. (Getty)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – On Saturday Shawnee County Health Officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino addressed concerns over his decision to remove rules about retailers in the area wearing masks.

On Thursday Dr. Pezzino said it’s no longer necessary for employees at retailers to wear a mask at work, though he did emphasize that they are still recommended to do it.

Since then, he said their team has gotten a lot of concerns about that decision. However, Dr. Pezzino said he stands by the choice, and that he does not believe it puts the community in danger.

“There is a desire in some segments of the community to return to a lifestyle that is closer to what people were experiencing before the pandemic. We need to respect that desire, while keeping reasonable public health protection measures in place, as prompted by the specific, local situation,” Pezzino said. “As the health officer for our county, I recommended this decision and I am comfortable with it.”

He said the decision to make masks non-mandatory for retailers was make for the following reasons:

• General retail businesses have a lower risk of transmission, given the transient nature of contact between workers and customers. Additionally, many large businesses are following corporate guidance.

• The current epidemiology of the infection in Shawnee County suggests that at this time the risk of transmission is higher in certain settings and occupations, and our focus will concentrate on those high risk situations.

• Workers in sectors considered at high risk of transmission are still required to wear masks. This includes workers who have contact with customers in restaurants, bars, night clubs, personal services (salons,
barber shops, pet grooming, tattoo parlors etc.), entertainment venues (movie theatres, concert venues, bowling alleys, etc.), and gyms and fitness centers. The change is only for retail businesses.

Dr. Pezzino said he wants people to know that every time we leave the house we are taking a small risk of being infected with the virus, and it’s up to each person to decide how much risk they are comfortable with. If people are not comfortable with how businesses are taking precautions, he said they shouldn’t go there.

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