Gov. Laura Kelly stopped in Garden City at Brookover Feed Yard on Tuesday during a trip through southwest Kansas.
While at Brookover Kelly met at its corporate headquarters with Ty Brookover and Amanda Brookover Lee before heading out to the feed yard itself and meeting with some of the workers who take care of the cattle and get the cattle to market.
Kelly said the visit was beneficial as she is not from an agricultural background and the visit gave her insight to better work with the Secretary of Agriculture as they try to "think of ways to sustain and grow our agriculture industry here in the state of Kansas."
The past four to five months have been tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly said, and one of the challenges has been ensuring the food supply chain.
Brookover, and other feed yards, have been instrumental in making sure there is some stability in people’s lives in an uncertain time.
Western Kansas saw the first concentration of COVID-19 positive cases due to the meat packing plants and how closely workers are in conjunction to many of the workers living in multigenerational homes, Kelly said.
However, the state took an aggressive response to COVID-19 and brought in the CDC who began contact tracing and testing and engineers to figure out how to organize plants so they were safe to work in, Kelly said.
"We’re really one of the only states where a major meat packing plant did not have to close," she said. "Production slowed down, no doubt about that, but, it never stopped. We were able to keep it online."
Kelly believes the fact that plants did not have to close says a lot about how the federal government, state government and local governments worked together to make sure the plants stayed open and the supply chain remained in tact.
In regard to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, Kelly said the upswing is why she put the facemask mandate in place.
"Without a vaccine there is only so much that we can do to prevent the spread of the disease and to prevent the deaths that will be inevitable if we don't prevent the spread," she said.
Kelly implored everyone in Finney, Ford and Seward counties to "mask up."
"It is not a political statement, it is simply a public health measure — it protects you, it protects your family, it protects your neighbors, it protects your friends, it allows us to keep business open," she said. "Without masks we're going to have a very hard time opening schools because we can't ensure the safety. I would just encourage everybody to mask up, we've got to bend that curve back down."
She is worried about how counties are not requiring people to wear masks, but wearing masks along with good hygiene and social distancing is the only way to combat the virus.
"I know nobody likes it, I don't like it, but it doesn't matter. We're not in charge of this, the virus is in charge of this," she said. "I just ask the folks out here to go talk to their county commission, get them to change their minds, get them to get behind the mask mandate, it's for everybody's good."