Winnebago County Board votes to postpone taking action on proposed mask order indefinitely

The mandate was proposed by the County Health Department to take the place of the statewide order if it was repealed
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:57 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:29 PM CST
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The Winnebago County Board considered a mask mandate Tuesday night proposed by the County Health Department, however board members voted to postpone taking action on the order indefinitely.

The proposed mandate is identical to the statewide order, which is currently facing legal challenges.

The meeting, which started at 6 p.m. Tuesday, was filled with public comment for three hours. The majority of the people who spoke were against having to wear a mask.

Board members voted 26-4 on the measure shortly after 11 p.m.

If passed, it would have taken effect only if the Governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate was struck down, or expired before June 30th. It would also only apply to indoor spaces, except for people’s homes.

Many people who spoke out during the three hour public comment period cited respiratory health concerns from having to wear a mask, but those who spoke supporting the effort fear COVID-19 numbers could rise if masking doesn’t continue.

“I am encouraging you to at least honor the rights of those who do have respiratory issues and cannot wear a mask. It’s a matter of my freedom to choose to stay healthy,” said a different resident against the mandate.

“If we all put as much energy into using our masks correctly and wearing them consistently rather than coming up with all of these reasons to deny what science has proven I think we’d be a lot better ahead,” said one resident supporting the mandate.

As Action 2 News first reported last week, the Winnebago County Health Department created the order, and said it would be an advisory until the board voted and approved it during Tuesday’s meeting.

“Wearing masks is a key thing that we all can do to continue to reopen our economy. Regardless of the good news in the last few weeks of case numbers we know they’re new and more contagious variants that we are going to have to deal with,” said a resident supporting the order.

“It’s a muzzle against all of our freedoms, as people. Shame on anyone who thinks this mask mandate is a good idea,” said another resident against the mandate.

Action 2 News also spoke to Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, who says having an ordinance in place now prevents the board from having to scramble and put something together at a moment’s notice.

“We’re not trying to make things rougher, but we are charged by the state to protect the public’s health and even some of the state legislators that voted to strike down the Governor’s order indicated it’s something that local governments should consider,” said Harris.

The Oshkosh City Council also had a mask order on the Tuesday night’s meeting agenda, however council members delayed taking action due to the County Board agenda item. The Council is now expected to take action on the order at the next meeting in March.

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