The Washburn County public health officer issued an advisory on Thursday, July 16, declaring people should wear masks inside buildings where people other than one's household are and in certain other conditions.
“Due to continued community transmission of COVID-19 throughout our Region, the State, and across the Nation, the Health Department recognizes that prevention of COVID-19 in Washburn County is a shared responsibility between individuals, businesses, and community agents,” the department wrote in the advisory. “As such, Washburn County is now advising all residents wear face coverings when in public.”
The advisory comes through the authority of Wis. Stat. §252.03 (1) and (2), which lists under the duties of local health officers the obligation to “do what is reasonable and necessary for the prevention and suppression of disease” and to “promptly take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress and control communicable diseases.”
The department noted that “Washburn County has a large population of older adults and other high-risk individuals. These populations are at the highest risk of COVID-19; it is our priority to keep people in Washburn County healthy and safe.”
On March 17, the Washburn County Board of Supervisors approved a countywide COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.
On July 15, the COVID-19 Activity Level for Washburn County was raised from low to medium. Activity level is based on current burden, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the last two weeks, and trajectory, the percent change in number of confirmed cases in the last two weeks. The current activity level by county and region can be viewed at dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/local.htm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommend that individuals wear cloth face coverings when they are in a public setting where they cannot reliably maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times.
“This is an ever-changing and very serious health situation, and Washburn County needs to be diligent in its response,” the health department said. “This advisory provides recommendations and does not provide for enforcement via civil or criminal penalty. The Washburn County Health Department entrusts compliance of these recommendations to the public in the interest of protecting our businesses, residents, and visitors during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The health department recommends that every individual in Washburn County should wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when:
> In any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person’s own household or living unit, could be present.
> In line to enter any indoor space.
> Driving or riding on public transportation or in any for hire vehicle.
The face coverings can be removed under the following circumstances:
> While eating or drinking.
> When communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and communication cannot be achieved through other means.
> While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering.
> When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity.
> When federal or state law prohibits wearing a face covering.
The following individuals are exempt from this advisory to wear a face covering:
> Children aged 2 years old and under.
> Individuals for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by government safety guidelines.
> Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
> Individuals who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
> If children are unable to wear a face covering, parents and guardians are advised to only bring them to places where it is necessary they be.
Acceptable face coverings include:
> Bandana, scarf, or neck gaiter that covers the nose and mouth.
> Homemade cloth face mask made either by sewing or a no-sew method.
> Examples and instructions for making face coverings can be found at: co.washburn.wi.us/news/public-health/cloth-face-coverings.
> Members of the general public should not seek medical-grade surgical masks or N95 respirators to comply with this advisory. Medical-grade masks should be reserved for frontline health care staff and first responders.
For up-to-date information regarding COVID-19:
> Washburn County’s COVID-19 page: co.washburn.wi.us/news/public-health/Coronavirus-Outbreak.
> Washburn County Health Department Facebook: facebook.com/WashburnCoHealthDept/.
Resources for residents, businesses, and families: co.washburn.wi.us/news/emergency-management/COVID-19.
Questions and concerns can be directed to the Washburn County Health Department, 715.635.4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.