By Shereen Siewert

Wausau officials next week will consider extending the city’s face covering resolution, citing concerns over a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 first detected in Wisconsin this week.

Members of the council in November approved a face covering resolution to take effect when Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mandate expires or if the state resolution is struck down in the courts. The resolution sunsets on Jan. 31.

Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said the mask mandate under review is an extension of what is already in place. Instead of expiring on Jan. 31, the resolution would extend to March 31.

In November, council members said their goal was to ensure COVID-19 infections decreased. But in Marathon County, numbers have continued to tick sharply upward. To date, 12,797 residents have been infected with the virus in Marathon County, while 193 residents have died, health officials said Friday.

So far, Wausau chose a resolution for masks, stopping short of pushing forward an ordinance. An ordinance would be enforced by the police, but a resolution does not include such enforcement action. Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven told the Public Health and Safety Committee last year that his department would not have the capacity to enforce an ordinance, also pointing to a shortage of dispatchers who would handle calls reporting violations.

The resolution also encourages all businesses, organizations, and non-profit entities within the city to post notice requiring employees, customers, visitors, members, or members of the public to wear a face covering whenever those persons are in a building open to the public.

The Public Health and Safety Committee will meet at 5:15 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.