Board of Health Mask Resolution

The city and county’s joint public health committee indefinitely postponed a resolution Wednesday that urged PHMDC to pull back the most recent emergency order.

The city and county’s joint public health committee indefinitely postponed a resolution Wednesday that urged Public Health Madison & Dane County to pull back the most recent emergency order, which extends the local mask mandate through Jan. 3.

The resolution, 157, was first brought to the Board of Health in September to address the previous emergency order, which had a mask mandate in effect through Nov. 27. The resolution called on director of PHMDC Janel Heinrich to dismiss the order until public input and “consent of the governed” had been achieved. (If the resolution had been moved forward, it would have gone to the county’s Personnel & Finance Committee next before going to the full County Board).

Ahead of the meeting’s public comment section, board member Jerry Halverson announced the board would not hear commentary on resolution 157, as it was on the agenda back in September for the last emergency order.

Despite his announcement, several community members spoke in favor of the resolution — and against the mask mandate. 

Among others who spoke in support of repealing the emergency order, Kevin Tottel spoke at the beginning of the meeting and accused public health officials of committing crimes against humanity for “tyrannical” mask mandates. 

The author of the resolution and a proponent of repealing local mask mandates, county Supervisor Jeff Weigand, who represents District 20 just east of Sun Prairie, won a special election for the County Board seat in August. Before that, he worked as a legislative aide for Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman when he was a state senator.  

During Wednesday’s meeting, Weigand said he was at a loss for words due to the board’s decision not to allow public comment on the resolution. 

“The fact that you would drop that information on the meeting participants during the meeting and not prior to the meeting is disgraceful and you should be ashamed of your conduct,” he said. 

He went on to ask that PHMDC immediately withdraw the mask mandate and that the board share data on the effectiveness of masks. He went on to denounce the board’s behavior for sending out a press release accusing the supervisor of spreading misinformation.

Ald. Lindsay Lemmer countered Weigand and said it’s shameful to send a message that the board should be questioning the authority of the director of public health during a pandemic.

She went on to express her disappointment that the resolution was back in front of the committee during the meeting.

“I am saddened that this is back in front of us. I think it’s really important to be abundantly clear on this that we are 100% behind Public Health,” Lemmer said. “We need to be absolutely clear that we are behind the ability to establish emergency orders that are saving lives.”

County Board Chair Analiese Eicher told the Cap Times that the resolution takes away from the “real work” the county could be doing to help with the pandemic. 

“The Dane County Board has been supportive of public health measures since the beginning of the pandemic. For many of us, we look at the health and overall safety of our community and see the measures being put in place working,” Eicher said. “A few supervisors are choosing to take this path and seek to spread misinformation and pursue resolutions that wouldn't actually change anything."

While she empathized with those experiencing pandemic fatigue, Eicher supported PHMDC’s new emergency order and the extension of the mask mandate. 

“Historically we have public health ordinances for a reason,” she said. “It’s to keep us safe.”

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