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Green Bay City Council extends local mask ordinance

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 4:38 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:42 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay City Council approved an ordinance requiring face masks in public places within the city limits.

The council convened a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss reinstating the city’s state of emergency and a the city-wide mask mandate. This, after the governor’s continued extensions of a statewide mask mandate were struck down by the state Supreme Court Wednesday (see related story).

The city declared a state of emergency in March, 2020 and continued to extended it through the end of the year. However, the council continued reinstating the city’s mask ordinance which expired at midnight Thursday.

The city recently got clarification from the Wisconsin League of Municipalities saying local governments need to first declare a state of emergency before implementing a mask ordinance.

“Just so council knows, this was news to me because we let that state of emergency fall away at the end of last year and instead just moved forward with the extension of the mask requirement,” said Mayor Eric Genrich.

After a sometimes heated discussion, the city council voted in favor of reinstating the state of emergency and then voted in favor of a mask requirement.

The ordinance will expire on May 5 and needs council approval to reinstate it.

Mayor Genrich said he hopes this state of emergency is short-lived and this is the only tool the city has to continue to encourage people mask up and social distance.

He and some city council members said they see an end to the pandemic with more people getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A public comment period Thursday afternoon was short. The council has already heard hours of public testimony from people passionate on both sides of the mask debate.

The first speaker told the council “enough is enough” on mask mandates and called it “repugnant” the council was holding this meeting before a holiday weekend. The second speaker credited face masks for preventing the spread of the coronavirus at their daughter’s dance team performance, saying one dancer tested positive for COVID-19 two days later but no other dancers tested positive.

Some speakers didn’t take it well when Alderman Randy Scannell asked each one if they believe in science. He later explained there seems to be a lot of opinions around what the science is. “We are not experts, so we have to rely on other experts,” he said.

“I’m not for extending it any longer. I’ve heard from enough people... let people choose...the number one thing we should be doing is washing your hands. That’s the number one thing we should promote,” said Alder Chris Wery.

Several council members said it seems necessary to continue on the present course with mitigation efforts, not relying on vaccinations alone, to stop the virus from spreading.

City Alder Kathy Lefebvre said to think about others, not just yourself.

“All we’re asking for is another 4 weeks. I’m going to support this,” Veronica Corpus-Dax said. “Let’s hold the course a little longer,” said Alder Bill Galvin.

The measure could be extended on a council vote.

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