Chippewa County public health director Angela Weideman spoke in favor of a countywide mask requirement when people are in public spaces.
“I think it would be a good thing for everyone to be wearing a mask,” Weideman said Tuesday while speaking to the Chippewa Falls City Council. “I think it would greatly benefit us to have a mask mandate. I don’t think it’s something right now the county will do.”
Councilman John Monarski asked whether the county could make masks mandatory, even if Wisconsin doesn’t create a statewide requirement.
Weideman said counties technically can create those policies but are hesitant to do so, explaining they are fearful of lawsuits. Chippewa County would want to update its ordinances before creating any mask requirement, she said.
The council met virtually; a city resident who called into the meeting asked the council to pass an ordinance of a citywide mask mandate. City attorney Bob Ferg said he doesn’t believe the city can create an ordinance for the city, saying it likely needs to be a countywide policy.
Weideman was speaking to the council about how the county is managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
She walked the council through the metrics her office is using in tracking the number of overall cases and testing in the area. The county is considered to be in a high-risk category. There have been 171 total cases, including 36 active cases.
“With that number of cases coming in, it is taxing our public health department,” she told the council.
As of Tuesday, no Chippewa County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, and the county still hasn’t had a COVID-19-related death. Weideman said the county is in good shape if the virus takes off here.
“Thankfully, we have enough ventilators available and hospital beds available. We can meet the needs of the Chippewa Valley,” she said. “At this point, we are sitting really, really good.”
Her office is doing a good job with contact tracing of individuals who have been around those infected, Weideman said.
“If we don’t follow up with those contacts, the virus is still spreading,” she said.
Weideman said test results are still coming in after about two days; she noted that in Texas, results can be two weeks after a test, and that state has nearly abandoned contact tracing because of the sheer number of cases.