Door County Board votes against pursuing mandatory mask order

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 5:16 PM CDT
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STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Door County Board of Supervisors voted Friday against a local ordinance or public health order to make wearing a mask in public a requirement.

“The purpose of this meeting is more an educational meeting,” said Ken Pabich, Door County Administrator.

People on both sides of the issue took an opportunity to weigh in during public comment as part of a special meeting on Friday morning.

”I cannot imagine the power you think you have to tell me and everybody in my family what to wear. That is outrageous, and I guarantee you you will be faced with lawsuits and you will lose,” said one Door County resident.

”I think that if Door County was branding that we’re safe, we’re masking here, we’re respecting your health, that people would be encouraged to come here rather than be afraid to come here, because they know there’s massive crowds here,” said another.

”While I appreciate, empathize and sympathize with the public comment and the personal views that were expressed today, they will not in any way, shape or form inform my opinion on what is legally permissible and what is not,” said Grant Thomas, Door County Corporation Counsel.

Thomas calls mandating masks an action not straightforward or simple while also noting the gaps the framework of how local authorities can handle these situations and to what extent.

“What we have to remember is that the stakes are high,” said Thomas.

“Would an ordinance or a health order help? I’m not sure,” said Sue Powers, Door County Public Health Officer. “Would this cause further divide or fighting between us? How would we enforce it? In true COVID fashion there are more questions than answers.”

Questions about enforcement and the risk of opening the county up to lawsuits for infringing on civil liberties ultimately motivated supervisors to vote against the mandate. Instead, the plan is to pursue more active messaging aimed at visitors to encourage everyone to wear a mask when out in public.

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