By Shereen Siewert
On Monday, Wausau’s Public Health and Safety Committee will review a proposal to require masks in all public indoor spaces in the city.
But many residents openly wondered how such a mandate would be enforced, given the lack of such enforcement of the statewide mandate. The state order leaves enforcement up to health officials, already overwhelmed with the influx of COVID-19 cases, rather than police.
But how such a rule would be enforced locally answer depends on which action the committee, and ultimately the City Council, takes should they decide to move forward.
Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said if city leaders pass a resolution, no enforcement action is attached.
If, however, they pass an ordinance, there would indeed be enforcement as a civil forfeiture the way most ordinances are enforced – by the police.
Additional communities around the state have passed mask resolutions and ordinances. For example, Green Bay passed an ordinance in July that applied to public buildings and businesses that hold city licenses. That includes bars, restaurants, food markets and other establishments, along with public transportation.
In Dane County, businesses or groups of individuals who violate the mandate after a first warning can be fined $376 in Madison and $263.50 in the rest of the county.
Racine, Ashland, Bayfield, Shorewood, Milwaukee, Superior and other cities throughout the state have passed their own versions of a face covering requirement.
“No matter what they decide, it’s a challenging situation,” Roenberg said. “Having people call dispatch or 911 because folks aren’t wearing masks is not a great use of our resources. It’s something the committee will need to hash out and give direction for during the meeting on Monday – and possibly during subsequent meetings. This is likely an iterative process.”