Dept. of Health and Human Services reiterates recommendation

By Kellen Olshefski

Correspondent

**NOTE: This story includes a discussion from last week’s county HHS meeting. This week Gov. Tony Evers issued an order requiring masks throughout the state. However, we feel it’s important nonetheless to share what was discussed at last week’s local meeting.

During a Walworth County Health and Human Services Committee last week, representatives of the county’s Health and Human Services Department made it clear that while supportive of people wearing face coverings or masks, it is neither proposing nor exploring a mask mandate at this time.

While not specifically on the HHS’ committee’s July 22 agenda as an action item or even a discussion, the masks were included as part of a report from the department on COVID-19. Despite the fact that there was never a chance it would be voted on, a number of residents turned up – both in person at the meeting and via telephone – to voice their opinions on the idea of a mask mandate, with the majority of them speaking out against such a mandate.

After about an hour-long public comment session, Committee Chairman Ken Monroe noted an ordinance had not been passed and he believes that decision should be up to the cities and towns to craft their own ordinances if they so choose.

Monroe also noted that he personally doesn’t believe citizens should be mandated to wear a mask.

Walworth County Director of Health and Human Services Liz Aldred reiterated the issue was not on the agenda but she did skip ahead to that section in her report to the committee.

Aldred noted while Public Health is in support of people wearing masks – and has been since all along – it’s not recommending or exploring the possibly of mandating the wearing of masks in Walworth County at this time.

“It has been a part of our recommendation from the beginning. It’s part of our guidance that we’ve provided to the community; it’s on our website. Masks, social distancing, sanitation, hand-washing remain the pillars of how we can manage this disease,” Aldred said.

“We continue, as Public Health, to recommend that to our community, to our businesses, to our citizens within our community, but we do that in conjunction with those other pieces, with the hand-washing, with the social distancing,” she added.

According to Aldred, the department has spoken with numerous neighboring communities in southeastern Wisconsin and noted many are currently not mandating the wearing of masks. Though there have been some, most notably Dane and Milwaukee counties, and she noted, Whitewater recently passed a citywide mask mandate as well.

Aldred said numerous business within the county have looked at and followed the department’s guidance on reopening, which is based on a measurable matrix.

“This guidance has been out for a while and we get regular calls at Health and Human Services about this guidance,” Aldred said.

“We have worked with many, many, many businesses in our communities to look at ways they can open, that they can stay open, that they can address the illness if it happens,” she added.

Aldred noted the department has strong guidance out in the greater community and Walworth County citizens can see weekly updates made to the matrix.

“I believe that will help our community to be able to make decisions to manage the health for themselves as well as the people that come to their businesses,” she said.

Video coverage of the full July 22 meeting and the agenda packet containing the complete COVID-19 report can both be accessed online at co.walworth.wi.us.

 
 

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