By Shereen Siewert

Officials in Wausau are considering a plan to require masks throughout the city as COVID-19 cases continue their upward trend.

Mayor Katie Rosenberg last week requested the city attorney begin researching and drafting a local ordinance based on action in other communities, said Dist. 7 City Council Representative Lisa Rasmussen. If approved, the proposed ordinance aims to take a proactive approach if Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate expires, Rasmussen said.

So far, Marathon County leadership, the Marathon County Health Department and medical community have indicated support

Marathon County’s leadership, the health dept and the medical community have indicated support for the proposal, Rasmussen said, adding that residents should forget national politics and stop seeing wearing a face covering as a sign of support for one candidate or the other.

“We’re way beyond that, and Wausau is getting sicker by the week,” Rasmussen said. “None of us asked for this. Wausau’s healthcare system is maxed out and families, co workers and neighbors we all know are sick. People need to wake up to the fact that anyone can get it and while they may not become severely ill, they can infect others unintentionally, which is not OK.” 

A draft of the proposed ordinance is not yet posted on the city’s website, but the subject is the sole item on the agenda for a Nov. 2 Public Health and Safety Committee meeting. The move comes as the Wausau School District is preparing to reopen schools and the number of infections and deaths in the county is climbing daily.

Wausau would become one of a handful of Wisconsin cities with mask ordinances in place. Health officials around the world have said wearing masks is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is highly contagious.

“The task of putting on a mask will make a big difference, especially since our schools still plan to open next week and Wausau is so far from flattening the curve it is ridiculous,” Rasmussen said. “We have to come together as a community to do this and set aside the ‘every person for themselves’ mindset or we will be like this longer than anyone wants to be.”

Statewide, approval for wearing masks is high, according to multiple recent polls. For example: about two of every three Wisconsin voters say they always wear a mask in public places and 57% say they are either very worried or somewhat worried about getting the coronavirus, according to the latest Marquette Poll.

“Politics and resistance to simple prevention is compounding economic struggles we have in our business sector because cases keep skyrocketing and we are better than this,” Rasmussen said.

If the ordinance passes in committee, the full council would likely vote on the issue on Nov. 10.

The Public Health and Safety meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.