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Local businesses preparing for changes following CDC announcement



TOPEKA, Kan. – Businesses now have the power in their hands of what they want to see, masks or no masks, with new CDC guidelines being followed by the state and county.

Under Shawnee County’s updated health order issued Thursday night, businesses still may require employees to wear one when interacting with the public — and they still have to maintain distance with seating and barriers between seats.

Owners like Jon Bohlander in NOTO said they’ll keep the mask requirement — for now.

He has had his Wheel Barrel workers and customers masking up for more than a year. “Most people have been really good. We’ve had some issues with people wanting to wear one, it got politicized. It hasn’t necessarily been fun,” he said.

An end could be in sight with new guidance issued from federal, state, and local officials. He said he’s been strict with mask-wearing in his place of business and has been continuing to watch for himself where the numbers are, alongside the county and state’s decisions.

“I’ve been watching vaccination rates and case numbers and stuff and we’re probably going to drop our mask requirement soon,” he said.

The new CDC guidelines reflect increasing vaccination rates, and decreasing case numbers nationwide. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the country has seen things happen that made this decision be made.

“In the last two weeks, the cases in the country have dropped by a third. In the last two weeks, we’ve had the increasing available vaccine and we now have available and eligible people between the ages of 10 and 15,” she said.

Governor Laura Kelly said Thursday, Kansas will adopt the latest guidelines in a statement. She said the sooner we are vaccinated, the sooner we get back to normal.

Both Shawnee County and Manhattan also updated their guidance, reiterating that businesses may still require masks.

Bohlander said after speaking with fellow NOTO business owners, they’ve said they will most likely continue the mask mandate — with tables spread out and barriers up for the time being. The owner of Iron Rail Brewing and The Pennant said they, also, will likely keep protocols in place for at least another couple of weeks.

Bohlander said he’s willing to be cautious if means avoiding another outbreak and another shutdown.

“I wouldn’t survive that,” he said. “It’s been the whole point and we’ve been pretty lucky. The staff has been healthy. You never want that.”

If you’re headed to graduations this weekend, you’ll have to keep the mask on as well. Stormont Vail Event Center said they will follow the local health orders directed from the SNCO Health Officer that has been adopted by the Shawnee County Board of Commissioners. The school district requested that masks be required to be worn by those in attendance during graduation. Also, USD 501 said they will keep a mask requirement for their graduation on May 22nd at Hummer Sports Park, but the board could make the change if they want.