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Green Bay reinstates mask mandate

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council voted in favor of reinstating a city-wide face covering ordinance at a special meeting Thursday, April 1.

The decision came a day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mandate, and the city’s ordinance lapsed.

“I had mentioned the other night at our regularly scheduled council meeting that we might have a special meeting coming up,” said Mayor Eric Genrich. “I didn’t anticipate that it would happen so rapidly. I did not foresee the court case working its way to a decision as quickly as it did with our state Supreme Court. But that did occur, and we don’t have a statewide face covering requirement in place. So that is why we pulled together this meeting in short order.”

Genrich said under state law he had the ability to proclaim a state of emergency and enact a face covering requirement, but said he felt it was a better course of action to bring the decision to council.

There was hesitation from some alders at first, fearing possible legal ramifications of a city-wide mandate because of what occurred at the state level.

However, Joanne Bungert, deputy city attorney, said the two are not connected.

“The decision that struck down the statewide mask mandate does not apply to local authority,” Bungert said. “That focused solely on the governor’s authority under a different statutory section.”

District 4 Alder Bill Galvin said it is sad the issue has become political.

“Unfortunately, we see politics have gotten into this, instead of our concern for each other,” he said. “We’re more concerned about our political stance, and I think it’s sad.”

Not all agreed a mandate is necessary.

“We shouldn’t be mandating these things as a government,” said District 9 Alder Chris Wery. “We really have to take these powers carefully. Encourage people if you like. Let people choose. If a business allows it, let them choose accordingly. This is a free country. Let people decide for themselves.”

The ordinance ultimately passed with a 9-3 vote, with the majority of council agreeing a four-week extension makes sense.

“Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw a touchdown pass to the 10-yard line,” said District 10 Alder Brian Johnson. “He throws it into the endzone. Many people have mentioned that the vaccine is widely available, therefore we don’t need to extend the mandate. It is true that a lot of people now have it available to them, but not everybody does until next week. Four weeks will give everyone that ample opportunity to secure that vaccination.”

Johnson said a discussion needs to take place regarding next steps.

“One of the things that we ought to start discussing, and I don’t know if we need to get into the debate about gating criteria, but we certainly have to have that discussion about what is the threshold for when it is appropriate for us to remove the mandate,” he said.

Alders also passed a state of emergency resolution, which was necessary in order to enact the face covering ordinance.

Both expire May 5, unless extended.

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