K-State President Richard Myers reads over his notes before presenting Dennis Ruhnke his college degree from K-State University at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

K-State President Richard Myers reads over his notes May 5 before presenting Dennis Ruhnke his college degree from K-State University at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka. Myers has called for local governments to institute consistent mask rules.

K-State president Richard Myers on Tuesday called on community leaders to institute mask-wearing rules that will help K-State to start classes as scheduled.

“Now is the time for community policymakers to get behind a plan that allows the whole community to move forward,” he wrote in an op-ed. “This means consistent rules with regard to the use of face coverings and physical distancing, and consistent enforcement of those rules across our communities.”

K-State is considering several options for the 2020-21 school year, including opening on Aug. 17 as planned, delaying the on-campus opening with an online start, or moving completely online for the fall semester.

Riley County commissioners recently rejected a county-wide mask requirement, effectively passing off the decision to city governments. Manhattan currently requires people to wear masks, but other cities don’t have such ordinances.

The county commission’s decision went against the recommendation of the Riley County Health Department. Julie Gibbs, county health department director, said Monday at the commission meeting that K-State supported a countywide mask mandate.

Myers said he would like to see Manhattan’s mask ordinance extended through the end of the fall semester.

“The science is clear that wearing face coverings, hand hygiene and enforcing physical distancing can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Myers said. “But these efforts are only as strong as the weakest link. It takes just one exception to cause a super-spreader event, in which case we would probably have to stop in-person classes and go to distance learning.”

His concern is that the COVID-19 trend in Riley County is going in the wrong direction. With 13 new cases Wednesday the local total is 441.

Myers said people should pay close attention to how, when and where they gather.