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Proposed mask ordinance moves to county board for first reading

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 5:56 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As COVID-19 continues to surge in the state, Eau Claire County administrators are taking steps to slow the spread.

“We are in the middle of a public health emergency,” says Eau Claire County Board Member Nick Smiar. “People are dying from this, people are in our intensive care units, our hospitals are filling up.”

On Tuesday, representatives from the county, like Smiar, voted unanimously to move forward with the process of passing a county-level mask ordinance if Evers does not extend the state mandate set to expire next week.

“I refer to this ordinance as a just in case ordinance,” Smiar says. “It’s to replace the governor’s ordinance if something should happen to it. It’s not going to look or feel any different than the way it is now.”

The ordinance includes a $200 fine for individuals found not in compliance, which Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese says, would be enforced by the health department.

“Document that violation and move forward with the recommendation for citation, we would not use law enforcement in these circumstances,” she says.

During the public comment session, community member Kyle Woodman said wearing a mask should be up to each individual.

“We don’t need to go around and force everyone to wear a mask if they don’t feel it’s necessary for their health, I think their health is their responsibility,” he says.

While the idea of a mask mandate may upset some, Smiar says it is something people will get used to just like they got used to wearing seat belts after a law was passed in 1968.

“Back when the seatbelts came in, it was very similar,” he says. “The government can’t tell me what to do and if I think it’s good, I’ll choose to do it, but then we passed the law.”

Health experts say it’s about protecting ourselves and those around us.

The proposed ordinance will have its first reading at the Eau Claire County Board meeting on January 19th, the Eau Claire City Council will then have a first reading the following week.

Smiar says he expects a vote sometime next month.

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