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Eau Claire City Council postpones vote on Contagious Disease Ordinance

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 7:11 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire City Council postpones action on a Contagious Disease Ordinance until a task force is formed and can bring a recommendation to the council.

The task force should be formed no later than January 25, 2021. The task force has until June 8, 2021 to bring a recommendation to the city council.

The council could discuss the ordinance sooner, in the event of a health emergency. Councilmember Kate Beaton was the only vote against postponing the ordinance.

“I am worried about the fall. We are likely, with respiratory disease typically hitting harder particularly in the fall and winter, going to have increased disease and death in this community from COVID-19,” said Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese during Tuesday’s council meeting.

The ordinance would have allowed the Eau Claire City-County Health Department to enforce local health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ordinance would also add legislative oversight, meaning health orders would have to be approved by the city council and the county board before they could be enforced.

Monday night, members of the city council discussed the ordinance. Councilmembers heard from Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese, Eau Claire City Attorney Steve Nick, and community members in favor and against the ordinance.

The ordinance is currently scheduled to go before the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors next Thursday. For the ordinance to go into effect, the city council and the county board would both have to pass its versions of the ordinance.

Councilmember Andrew Werthmann posted a message on his public Facebook page following Tuesday’s council meeting, “Eau Claire City Council voted 10-1 to postpone the Contagious Disease Ordinance to build more community support and make sure the ordinance is done right.” He goes on to say, “This Ordinance is one small but important tool, toward enforcing local health orders. We have to get it right. We also need buy-in from Chamber, business community, and more community members.”

Werthmann adds, “In the postponement we understand that if the Health Dept Director needs to bring immediate legislation forward we will support that. If the ordinance can be re-worked in a short time frame that is a positive. This postponement both sets up a community process that leans on our Health experts and community leaders, and leaves open the possibility that if the next few months continue to worsen, we will support our Health Department in taking action with direct legislation. Our Director will not hesitate to bring such legislation forward to make sure our community is protected.”

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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