Damakant Jayshi

One day after the Marathon County Health Department updated its Covid-19 guidance to recommend wearing masks indoors, at least 30 residents sat closely together inside a room during a Public Safety Committee meeting. 

Nearly all of them, including at least one child, were without masks, as were a number of county supervisors.

The Health Department guidance follows recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued last week that people wear masks while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The agencies updated their health guidance in light of the Delta variant of Covid-19 surging across the country. 

Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Matt Bootz, told Wausau Pilot & Review that he was not aware of the Health Department guidance prior to Wednesday’s meeting. 

“I did not know about it,” he said. “We need to revisit the indoor mask policy soon.” 

Bootz said he is firmly in favor of following all safety protocols for the county even if they are not mandatory.

The Marathon County Health Department dashboard puts the county at high risk for Covid-19 transmission. According to the CDC, the 7-day moving averages show an increase in the number of cases by 100%, positivity  by 3% and new hospital admissions by 50%.

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Vaccination rates in the county are below 50%, far below the threshold that health experts say is required for herd immunity to stop the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Medical professionals and health experts are urging people to get vaccinated and use masks, while President Joe Biden called for a door-to-door vaccination campaign.

The president’s position seems to have ticked off at least one supervisor at the Public Safety Committee meeting who brought this up, unprompted, while expressing his support for declaring Marathon County as Constitutional Sanctuary County. 

“Door-to-door vaccination knockers, really? Privacy is invaded,” said supervisor Brent Jacobson from Dist. 26, sitting maskless during the meeting. Ironically, this remark came from Jacobson within a minute of saying he supported the community’s outreach on constitutional sanctuary resolution, adding it was a “door-to-door effort from my community.”

Some Americans are continuing to resist the vaccines, something health officials say is causing a surge in hospitalizations and deaths in areas with a large number of unvaccinated residents. CDC is now calling the COVID-19 situation “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.