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E.C. City Council & County Board vote to repeal mask ordinances

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) - During its meeting Tuesday night, the Eau Claire County Board voted to end the mask ordinance.

A few hours earlier, The Eau Claire City Council also voted in favor of repealing its ordinance.

These votes follow suit with the CDC’s guidance that fully vaccinated Americans can go maskless in most settings.

Unvaccinated people, though, are expected to continue to wear a mask and physically distance.

“We are in a space right now where risk is lower,” says Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese.

Declining case counts across the county has Giese optimistic.

“We need to keep containing the virus which we are largely doing which is an amazing success story in this community and across the state,” she says.

But Giese is still concerned of another spike in cases due to COVID-19 variants.

“Repealing the face mask ordinance if it’s also not clearly named that there is an enormous risk with unvaccinated individuals and potential spread of disease, I think we’re not ready for that,” she says. “Especially when half of our population is not vaccinated and people that can’t be vaccinated.”

Tuesday night, the Eau Claire County Board voted 23 to 3 to repeal the county-wide mask ordinance.

“We support this knowing our community has now had education to understand the benefits of living carefully,” says County Board Member Colleen Bates.

But it was not without concern, one of the “no” votes was County Board Member Heather Deluka.

“I am concerned a bit about the folks that are in limbo,” she says. “If I had to attend a county board meeting in person this evening, I would not have been fully vaccinated.”

This followed a unanimous repeal decision earlier on Tuesday by the Eau Claire City Council where members also had concerns about how businesses will navigate the new guidance.

“They want to protect their employees and their customers and their families and I think they are looking for guidance on how best to go forward,” says Council Member Emily Berge.

“We are working through within our department what could be some resources including some potential signs available as well as some materials available for entities and businesses to navigate what’s next,” Giese says.

Giese says even with the ordinance gone, people should still be cautious in public spaces because you cannot tell who is vaccinated.

“Any large setting where many people are gathered, right now we can assume that half of them may be vaccinated and half of them not vaccinated based on our data,” she says.

If case counts begin to rise again, Council Member Kate Beaton says the city council can bring a vote to put another ordinance in place.

“It would be a decision of the council, just like the first time, to re-impose an order if we saw raising rates of COVID again,” she says.

The overall message tonight at both meetings was they supported the repeal, but are urging people to get vaccinated.

Giese reiterated the vaccine is the most effective way we have to combat COVID-19 and protect our community.

For info on where to sign up to get vaccinated, click here.

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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors and the Eau Claire City Council vote to repeal the mask ordinances that went into effect in March.

The votes on Tuesday, May 18 come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday, May 13 that the new set of guidelines allowed the removal of indoor mask recommendations for fully-vaccinated individuals.

Unvaccinated individuals are expected to continue to wear a mask and physically distance, according to CDC guidance. Only 43% of Eau Claire County residents are currently fully vaccinated and individuals under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination.

A person is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if it has been two or more weeks since they got the second dose in a two-dose series (such as Pfizer or Moderna), or one dose of a single-dose vaccine (such as Johnson & Johnson). The CDC indicated that all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should continue to mask in healthcare settings, schools, correctional facilities, public transportation, shelters and other places where regulations exist, such as businesses or workplaces.

Eau Claire City- County Health Department Director Lieske Giese says masks are still a proven way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. She expressed concern about a possible spike from variants.

More details are coming up on WEAU 13 News at 10.

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