In order to avoid a shutdown, operators of the Downtown Topeka Farmers Market by Friday must submit a plan to the Shawnee County Health Department describing how they intend to ensure their market complies with public health restrictions, including the required wearing of masks by all retail workers in contact with the public.
That market since April 11 has been open from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in the parking lot just south of the Kansas Judicial Center, 301 S.W. 10th.
The Shawnee County COVID-19 Response Team has received multiple complaints over several weeks that vendors at that market were not complying with restrictions the county has in place for retail workers, county health officer Gianfranco Pezzino said Sunday.
Pezzino issued an order last month that included requiring the wearing of masks by all retail employees in contact with the public. Customers are not required to wear masks.
The county’s COVID-19 Response Team contacted Farmers Market management several times in recent weeks about the alleged violations, Pezzino said.
"The problems persisted, so we asked for a written plan describing how they are planning to implement the public health safety requirements that apply to all retail businesses," Pezzino said. "It is a simple request that the (Farmers Market) management should be able to answer easily. It should not have caused so much stress and was blown out of proportion on social media."
Wakarusa-based Good Ground Gardens posted a message Saturday on its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/goodgroundgardens/ suggesting the Farmers Market faced being shut down "because a few vendors were not wearing masks."
"While we totally understand the concern, we feel that it’s an injustice to shut down the entire market when there were only a few non-compliant vendors," that post said.
It added: "The market board is working on a letter to give to the (Shawnee County) commissioners about what we can do to ensure compliance with the county’s rules, but we would still love the support of all who value local farmers and our Farmers Market."
Good Ground Markets asked the public to email Shawnee County commissioners to express their support or to attend the commission’s meeting scheduled to be held Monday.
Dusty Nichols, incident commander of the county’s COVID-19 Response Team, replied Saturday on Facebook that local officials are seeking not to shut down the market but to ensure that it operates safely.
The market will be allowed to remain in operation if it submits an acceptable plan by Friday, Nichols said.