Calls to put a little more teeth into requests to wear facemasks in public has led municipalities and Bayfield County to consider passing ordinances or issue orders mandating their use.
Washburn has been internally discussing passing an ordinance, said Scott Kluver, city administrator, as the city has received several requests from residents to enforce the use of facemasks.
But the “devil’s in the details,” he said, about crafting such an ordinance.
Those details revolve around the possibility of legal challenges to the ordinance and questions about enforcing it. Kluver said he has heard that other communities have faced legal action.
And the city hasn’t followed a seemingly successful move on Bayfield’s part to enact an ordinance as ordinances already on the books may accomplish the same goal, he said. The problem with that is finding the time to research the subject while addressing other pressing city needs.
If the city goes forward with an ordinance, it could not go into effect until the day after it is published after the City Council approves it.
In the meantime, Bayfield County is seriously looking at putting a mandate in place, but first the Health Department wants to study the local situation and establish guidelines on when to issue an order and when to ease up, said Sara Wartman, public health officer.
“We have some orders that we’re actively looking at and others we’re drafting in case of certain situations,” Wartman said.
Bayfield County had recorded 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus with one death, as of Monday. Five patients had recovered and seven were being monitored. At least one case was linked to a large-group hockey gathering in Ashland that may have resulted in at least 13 COVID-19 cases in the tri-state area, and most of the spread has been the result of people traveling into or out of the county, Wartman said.
In response to events, Bayfield and Ashland county public health officials last week issued an emergency advisory for everyone age 5 and older to wear a facemask inside enclosed buildings where other people are present, unless they are members of the person’s own household. They also strongly discouraged large events or gatherings, especially those with 250 or more people.
Although the Health Department can issue an order mandating the use of facemasks, like Washburn it faces a host of questions as to the responsibility of enforcement. Should the county take the ordinance route, the County Board would need to vote on it.