Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich on Monday used his emergency authority to issue an order requiring face coverings be worn in any indoor locations other than one’s own home in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We know based on the advice given from the CDC, the surgeon general, our state (Department of Health Services) and local health officials that wearing a face covering when out in public, especially when indoors out in public, is a very effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus,” Genrich said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Given the fact that we have some of the highest numbers of cases in the state here in Brown County, I felt like it was certainly time to adopt something to require face coverings when out in public indoors.”
To date, Brown County has had 1,351 cases per 100,000 residents, second only to Milwaukee County.
After the State Supreme Court invalidated the Department of Health Service’s “Safer at Home” order, Brown County briefly implemented a similar order keeping many businesses closed and restricting travel, but it was rescinded out of concern over a potential legal challenge. Genrich said he hopes a mask order will have similar effectiveness in slowing the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s certainly a less restrictive way to control the spread of the virus,” he said. “I’m not the health expert. I wish that we still had statewide policies in place. I think maybe DHS is the best place to put in policies to govern these kinds of things across the state of Wisconsin, but given the fact that we don’t have that any longer, given the fact that we have a responsibility to protect our citizenry and we have the authority to put something like this in place, it made a lot of sense for us to act.”
With the mask order, Green Bay joins the City of Milwaukee and Dane County in requiring face coverings.
Genrich said he has the authority to institute a public health order during a state of emergency, but that it must be affirmed by the Common Council, which he hopes will happen at tonight’s meeting.
“I think we will have a majority of council who believe it’s the right thing to do,” he said. He said he and members of the Common Council have heard from constituents, mostly in favor of a mask requirement.
“All of our private health systems here in the area have co-signed a letter supporting this action,” he said. “I think that’s been persuasive.”
He also hopes the Brown County Board of Supervisors will institute a countywide mask requirement, in which case the city would rescind its order.
The mask order will run concurrent with the state of emergency, so there’s no definite end date at this point.