Update: Local Health Ordinances
UPDATE: Eau Claire City Council & County Board pass back-up mask mandate
In direct legislative action at special meetings on Tuesday, Feb 2, both the Eau Claire City Council and the Eau Claire County Board enacted local ordinances that would create a mask mandate throughout Eau Claire County if the current statewide mandate is vacated. The City Council vote was 11-0, and the County Board vote was 24-4.
If in place, it would require mask wearing, with specified exceptions, in indoor enclosed spaces, other than a private residence, where "Another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space." It would also mandate that building with public access "post a notice at their entrance that face coverings are required." It has a sunset date of June 30.
EC City Council approves face mask mandate to take effect if statewide order quashed (Leader-Telegram $)
County Board approves mask mandate (Leader-Telegram)
Eau Claire City Council & County Board pass ordinances creating a mask mandate (WEAU 13 News)
Eau Claire City Council passes mask ordinance (WQOW News 18)
Health department: Mask order crucial to keep virus in check (Leader-Telegram)
Local Governments Adopt Mask Protections as GOP Prepares to Kill Statewide Safeguard (UpNorthNews)
City, County advance their final votes on mask mandate to Tuesday, Feb 2
In light of potential legislative action in Madison that could vacate the Governor's statewide mask mandate, the Eau Claire City Council and Eau Claire County Board have called special meetings to hold final votes to create a local mask mandate. The City Council will meet at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 2, and the County Board at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 2. The City of Eau Claire has also posted an online survey seeking community input on the issue.
Both bodies are advancing the date for their decisions because of developments in Madison, where the State Senate this past Tuesday voted 18-13 to repeal the Governor's emergency order that put a statewide mandate in place until March 20. The State Assembly had planned to vote on the measure Thursday morning, but new information that the action could cost the state millions in federal aid caused the Assembly to put its vote on hold. However, such action is still possible, so local officials want their ordinance in place in the event the state mandate is ended before they would have the opportunity to have the local ordinance in place. Action by both the State Senate and Assembly would end the state mandate.
The Special Meeting of the County Board was called after more than a majority of its members, 17 of 29, requested it. The County held a first reading on the ordinance at it Jan 19 meeting and was originally scheduled to vote on it on Feb 17. The City Council's first reading on January 26, with a vote originally scheduled for Feb 9. Read below for more information about the specifics of the companion ordinances.
The Chamber has not taken a position on the back-up mask ordinance, and encourages its investors who are interested to participate in the public comment process. The Chamber did take a position on the proposed communicable disease ordinances that were proposed last fall. For more information and status on that issue, scroll down and read the section below, "How this is different than the ordinance that was proposed and postponed last fall."
* Eau Claire City Council Special Meeting, Tuesday, Feb 2, 4 p.m. Agenda Packet (includes meeting access info.)
Eau Claire City Council: Online comment form (specify Feb 2 meeting, Agenda Item #2)
Online community survey about mask mandate
* Eau Claire County Board Special Meeting, Tuesday, Feb 2, 7 p.m. Agenda Packet (includes meeting access info.)
Eau Claire County Board: Form to submit an online comment or request to speak
Eau Claire moves up vote on mask mandate (Leader-Telegram)
City of Eau Claire launches survey to gauge support of local mask mandate (WEAU 13 News)
County Board to consider local mask mandate at special meeting Tuesday (Leader-Telegram)
Assembly Republicans change course, decline to end mask mandate Thursday (The Cap Times)
Evers: Repealing mask mandate like eliminating speed limits (WQOW News 18)
Back-up Mask Ordinance advances to Eau Claire City Council and County Board
Based upon state statutes, both the Eau Claire City Council and the Eau Claire County board would need to pass ordinances for a mask mandate to take effect throughout Eau Claire County. The local process for direct legislation required the measure to be first considered by the Eau Claire City-County Board of Health and the Eau Claire County Administration Committee. Those bodies held a joint meeting and endorsed the proposal on January 12. The next steps were "First Reading" notices at the January 19 County Board meeting and the January 26 City Council meeting.
Note that this is a significantly different proposal than the broader communicable disease ordinance that was considered last fall, of which both the City Council and County Board postponed consideration. More explanation below. First, here are the details about the current proposal:
Why the new local ordinance is being proposed and what it would do
In proposing the ordinances, local health and elected officials cite the value of mask wearing in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There is currently a statewide mandate in place, ordered by Governor Tony Evers, who on January 19 extended the order another 60 days to March 20. However, there is a case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where the plaintiffs are arguing that the Governor does not have the authority to issue multiple emergency orders based upon the same disease. The emergency order could also be vacated by a vote of both the State Senate and State Assembly. Should the state mandate end, local proponents want a back up local ordinance to be able to continue the requirement to wear masks in Eau Claire County.
The proposed ordinance is written so that it will take effect only if the state order is ended. It would require mask wearing, with specified exceptions, in indoor enclosed spaces, other than a private residence, where "Another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space." It would also mandate that building with public access "post a notice at their entrance that face coverings are required." It has a sunset date of June 30. To meet the requirements of state statutes, both the Eau Claire City County and County Board would have to pass mandates to ensure the mandate is in effect throughout the county.
Click here to read the actual proposed ordinance (Eau Claire County)
Evers Will Extend Mask Mandate As DHS Reports 2,269 COVID-19 Cases (WPR)
Gov. Evers Announces New Public Health Emergency, Issues New Face Coverings Order as State Continues Vaccine Distribution (News release)
Effectiveness of masks asserted
The first step in the process of enacting the ordinance required it to be considered by the Board of Health and the County Administration Committee, who held a joint meeting on January 12, and approved taking it as direct legislation to the local elected bodies, the Eau Claire City Council and Eau Claire County Board. During the discussion, Board of Health member Dr. Don Bodeau, an occupational health physician with over 30 years experience in respiratory issues, asserted that the ordinance is "the right thing to do from a public health perspective."
"The CDC has reviewed 45 high quality studies that document something better than a 70% protection," said Dr. Bodeau. " It’s a two-way protection, both control from the source and control from the user. It’s also well documented that asymptomatic spread, people who do not have symptoms at the time, are responsible for creating and spreading 50 to 60 percent of the new cases. These are people who are not sick today and do not know that they will become sick tomorrow or the next day. Then retroactively we track down those contacts and we find out they have infected a whole host of people. It’s also quite clear that when measures like this are undertaken new infections fall significantly and that businesses are more able to reopen, and the need for lock downs and more stringent legal control mechanisms are reduced. By going with a mask ordinance like this, we can actually maintain our public health, we can maintain our business community, and we can move forward in what can turn out to be the most graceful way possible as we wait for our vaccinations to reach that threshold of herd immunity."
Video Recording: Jan 12 Joint Meeting - Eau Claire City-County Board of Health and Eau Claire County Administration Committee (Eau Claire County)
Board of Health, county Administration Committee approve local mask ordinance (Leader-Telegram)
Mayo Clinic research confirms critical role of masks in preventing COVID-19 infection (Mayo Clinic Health System)
Organizers optimistic for summer events in the Chippewa Valley (WEAU 13 News)
Input sought from the Chamber and other stakeholders
In November, at the request of local public officials, a survey of customer-facing businesses was conducted by the Chamber and Downtown Eau Claire Inc. Of those responding, 74% said mandatory wearing of face masks would be reasonable to include if a local health order was enacted.
Before finalizing the proposed ordinance, city and county officials on December 21 sent the draft to health institutions, education institutions, business organizations, elected officials and the Chippewa Valley Economic Recovery Task Force, with an explanation of the purpose of the ordinance and requesting response by January 2. Chamber staff forwarded the request to our Board of Directors and members of our Governmental Affairs Committee. Based upon their responses, we submitted feedback that included clarification that individuals working alone are not required to wear a mask, and that the primary responsibility of businesses and organizations with public access is to post a sign. The original draft had a sunset date of September 30, which we suggested was too long. The final version subsequently shortened the sunset date to June 30. The Chamber has not taken a position on the mask ordinance, and encourages its investors who are interested to participate in the public comment process.
How this is different than the ordinance that was proposed and postponed last fall
In mid-September, the administrations of the City of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County introduced companion local health ordinances intended to clarify the role of the local health officer related to orders of general applications regarding communicable diseases and to provide for enforcement mechanisms. These were broad ordinances that dealt with the powers of the health officer and the legislative oversight of local elected officials.
Full text of both ordinances (September 2020, Board of Health)
The Chamber's position: The Chamber Board of Directors voted on October 5 to ask the city and county to withdraw the original proposed ordinances. We believed the ordinances as drafted embody policy decisions that were not arrived at with a community consensus. Among them, we believe the proposed legislative oversight was too passive and weak, the expectations and limits on enforcement need more clarity, and circumstances under which closure of whole categories of businesses could be ordered must be more clearly delineated, if allowed at all. These and the other policy questions within the ordinance would be better served if they were arrived at with input from the business community, educational institutions, health care organizations and others.
Click here to download and read the Chamber's full statement.
(The Chamber has not taken a position on the mask-only ordinance, and encourages its investors who are interested to participate in the public comment process. See more below.)
City of Eau Claire: At its Legislative Session on October 13, the Eau Claire City Council voted 10-1 to postpone action on the city version of the proposed health ordinance, instead creating a task force to get more community input and consensus before being brought back later. The action came after over two hours of debate and discussion, much of it reflecting the kinds of concerns about the process and content of the ordinance that were raised by the Chamber and others. The motion was proposed by Council Vice President Catherine Emmanuelle.
Voting Yes on postponement (consistent with the Chamber’s position): Emily Anderson, Emily Berge, Jill Christopherson, Catherine Emmanuelle, Jeremy Gragert, David Klinkhammer, John Lor, Terry Weld, Andrew Werthmann, Mai Xiong;
Voting No: Kate Beaton
Contact information: City Council members (City of Eau Claire)
Eau Claire County: At its October 20 meeting, the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors voted 17-12 to approve a motion, proposed by Supervisor Gary Gibson, to postpone consideration of the County version of the ordinance and work with the city to on a task force. Roll Call:
Voting Yes on postponement (consistent with the Chamber’s position): Carl Anton (Dist 5), Mark Beckfield (21), Steve Chilson (7), Missy Christopherson (29), Kimberly Cronk (28), Gary Gibson (1), Chris Hambuch-Boyle (16), Melissa Janssen (25), Robin Leary (23), Donald Mowry (9), Stella Pagonis (4), Nick Smiar (15), Kevin Stelljes (8), Zoe Roberts (27), Connie Russell (13), Gerald Wilkie (19), Dane Zook (6).
Voting No: Nathan Anderson (Dist 20), Colleen Bates (12), Nancy Coffey (10), Heather Deluka (24), Jim Dunning (18), Judy Gatlin (14), Ray Henning (11), Joe Knight (3), Sandra Mckinney (2), Martha Nieman (17), Katherine Schneider (22), Tami Schraufnagel (26).
How to find and contact your County Board member (Eau Claire County)
What's different and what's next
The latest back-up mask mandate is different because it is direct legislation that will be voted upon by elected bodies before taking effect. It is also narrowly written for a specific period of time with mask wearing being its only focus. It does not create any new powers for the health officer or others. As noted previously, the Chamber has not taken a position on the mask ordinance, and encourages its investors who are interested to participate in the public comment process.
Task force being constituted
As promised when the previous ordinances were postponed, County Board Chair Nick Smiar and City Council President Terry Weld have appointed a task force that will be charged with reviewing the need for an ordinance to deal with future communicable disease emergencies. That task force expected to begin meeting soon, but its work is not anticipated to have an impact on the management of the current pandemic. The Chamber will keep its investors updated as that process moves forward.
Communicable disease ordinance task force finalized; facilitator named soon (Leader-Telegram)
Posted by Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs Director
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.