By Shereen Siewert

Marathon County on Friday will launch an online reporting tool for violations to Wisconsin’s statewide order requiring face coverings when indoors or in a closed space, officials said Thursday.

The move comes on the heels of Clark County’s online reporting tool, which launched earlier this week. The statewide order requiring face coverings went into effect Aug. 1.

Marathon County Health Department Public Information Officer Judy Burrows said the online complaint form and tracking process will help officials identify when multiple reports on a single business or organization exist.

Health officials will follow up with those businesses to inform them of complaints.

“Our primary intention is to educate on the need and benefit to wearing a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID,” Burrows said.

Each week, the department receives about 180 calls from citizens with questions and concerns about the novel coronavirus, Burrows said. Of the 160 calls received this week, about 10 percent this week were complaints about people not wearing masks.

“We remind our callers that there are exemptions to wearing masks, and they can call a business to voice their concerns, too,” Burrows said. “This is still relatively new and people may need to be reminded.”

Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Marathon County, which reported 612 confirmed cases as of Thursday, up seven from 24 hours earlier. Eight residents in the county have died from complications related to COVID-19, up one from Wednesday.

Nationwide, more than 159,000 people have died due to COVID-19 complications, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

There are currently 160 active cases in Marathon County, with 444 recovered.

Burrows said the department has not received any guidance from Attorney General Josh Kaul on enforcement issues.

Some Republican legislators oppose the mandate, citing concerns over personal liberty. Many fear that Gov. Tony Evers will next use his emergency powers to force schools to close, an allegation Evers denied Tuesday in statements to reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has called for an extraordinary legislative session to end the state of emergency declared by Evers, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has not yet agreed to such a session.