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Eau Claire City-County Board of Health discusses proposed ordinance over health orders

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 10:20 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire City-County Board of Health met in an emergency meeting Monday afternoon to discuss a pair of ordinances tied to the county’s existing health order.

The Board of Health met to review and provide input to the Eau Claire City Council and Eau Claire County Board on resolutions related to Communicable Disease General Orders.

City and county officials say, if passed, the ordinances would give more legislative oversight and enforcement ability to the local health orders.

Eau Claire County has been under some form of a local health order due to the COVID-19 pandemic since May.

Now city and county officials have an ordinance in front of them, which would change the process of those orders by localizing state statutes which allow local health orders.

“The frame for reasonable and necessary and the way the ordinance is written is really defining more clearly how to determine what might be looked at to make sure that things are reasonable and necessary,” said Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese.

While some people in the community are concerned the ordinance would give an unelected official more power, attorneys with the city and county say that is not the case.

“Not an increase in the local health officer’s authority, this doesn’t grant them the ability to address any situation that they already can’t by state statute. What this does is provide legislative oversight of what they’re ordering for a general order, provides for the public input, and then it allows for whatever that order is, after going through that process, that order is then enforceable,” explained Eau Claire Assistant City Attorney Jenessa Stromberger.

Board of health members asked questions about the ordinances for about an hour Monday.

Ranging from whether due process would be given to those cited from the order, which the answer is yes, to does approving the ordinance bring in any more money for the city and county, which the answer is no.

“Sounds like it was definitely a group effort, it wasn’t just one person drafting this. It wasn’t even the health department drafting this from my understanding,” said one of the Board of Health Members.

In the end, the Board of Health was to review and provide input on the ordinances for the Eau Claire City Council and the Eau Claire County Board.

“Very appropriate preventive public health measure to be undertaking at this time. Given the relative absence of actions at higher political levels,” added Board of Health Member Dr. Donald Bodeau.

In addition to supporting the ordinance in their summary, the Board of Health also asked for the city and county to figure out how they will proceed if the two cannot agree over an order.

The ordinance is scheduled to have a first reading in front of the Eau Claire City Council on Sept. 22 and Eau Claire County Board on Oct. 6.

If the ordinances are passed, there would be oversight on local health orders given out in the county by three entities, the City-County Board of Health, the Eau Claire City Council, and the Eau Claire County Board.

Following the first readings, the ordinance is scheduled to be up for action in the city on Oct. 13 while up for action in the county on Oct. 22.

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