By Shereen Siewert

Health officials in Marathon County say they have no plans to discuss mask or vaccine mandates in the community or schools this week, despite an email circulated by the Republican Party of Marathon County suggesting otherwise.

The Republican Party of Marathon County email reads:

“The Marathon County Board of Health is meeting tomorrow morning, Tuesday, January 11, at 7:45 to discuss, among other things, a mandate from the county health department to vaccinate all school children over the age of 5, or perhaps the age of 12.”

In a statement issued Monday by Marathon County Communications and Engagement Strategist Sarah Dowidat, health officials say that is a misinterpretation of the agenda item and no such discussion is planned.

The Jan. 11 meeting includes an agenda item of “potential recommendation to schools in relation to 252.05 and 252.21.” Dowidat’s statement said the agenda item refers to a “continued conversation” from the board’s previous meeting regarding what communications, if any, are necessary regarding required COVID-19 reporting in schools.

“Furthermore, mandating masks or vaccines in schools  is not within the authority of the Board of Health or local Health Officer,” the Marathon County Board of Health statement reads.

The Republican Party of Marathon County’s email also shared links to stories it says suggest vaccines may not be effective, could be permanently harmful for children and that the “number of children who are hospitalized is grossly overstated.”

“Please do your research and share with others, including members of the board of health,” the email reads.

But Dowidat’s statement went on to encourage vaccines and other precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The Marathon County Health Department continues to encourage people to take  precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 including staying home if you are ill,  getting tested if you have symptoms, and getting vaccinated.”