OnFocus – On March 31, the State Supreme Court struck down Governor Evers’ mask mandate. As a result, the City of Marshfield may now lift its mask requirement for city buildings/facilities, if desired. Earlier this month, the Marshfield Common Council discussed removing the mask mandate, opting to postpone their decision until City staff could offer feedback.
“Even if the requirement is lifted, we will continue other appropriate health/safety precautions during the pandemic, and the mask requirement could always be re-implemented later, if conditions warrant,” City Administrator Steve Barg stated in a memo to Council. “Our immediate neighbors (Wausau, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids) are continuing the mask requirement in their city buildings/facilities until further notice. Across Wisconsin, some communities are looking at lifting the requirement later this spring once the vaccine has been available to everyone for a specified period of time.”
As directed by the Council on April 13th, Barg surveyed all employees that would be affected by lifting the mask requirement (excluding Library, Police/Fire, and Marshfield Utilities staff, since their operations are governed by other bodies – Library Board, Police and Fire Commission, and Utilities Commission).
“I was overwhelmed with replies, with by far the most common response being to end the mask requirement as soon as possible, if not immediately,” he said. “Those not sharing that view generally support ending the requirement once everyone has had a reasonable chance to get the vaccine, made available to anyone 16 years and older as of April 5th.”
Barg recommended the mask mandate conclude on May 17.
“Since a 6-week period of time would appear adequate for those who want the vaccine to get it, I recommend that the Council end the mask requirement at city buildings/facilities effective with the opening of business on Monday, May 17th,” he said. “We’ve come so far and we’ve been at this a year… I’d like to get to the point where we cross the finish line well.”
Alderman Adam Fischer expressed disappointment that the removal was not immediate, but said he would support the May 17 date.
“I believe that every person has individual rights and we need to be supporting people’s right to choose,” said Fischer. “I believe strongly that if someone wants to wear a mask, I will defend and fight for their right to wear a mask. And if someone does not want to wear a mask, I will defend and fight for their right to wear a mask. That’s the beauty of our country and our nation. We have rights and freedoms and as long as that’s intact, I will continue to support people’s rights.”
Alderman Tom Buttke added that those who want to wear a mask are still welcome to do so.
Alderman Mike Feirer said that seniors at the Senior Center who play cards and pool will still want people to wear masks.
“I think the mask mandate does need to end immediately,” said Alderperson Rebecca Spiros. Alderman Tom Witzel agreed with Spiros, stating that working conditions should be adjusted based on what staff want.
Alderman Ed Wagner made a motion to accept Barg’s plan. “I think it’s a wise decision, Steve,” he said.
That motion failed with a tie vote.
“I will make a motion to get rid of the masks effective immediately in all City buildings,” said Fischer.
That motion passed 7-3, with Wagner, Hendler, and Poeschel voting “no.”
The Library Board has voted to keep its mask requirement in place, largely because of the length of time that many patrons spend within the facility during each visit.
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