De Pere ends mandates, but risks remain
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – Most of the municipal emergency mandates for the City of De Pere are now history.
The De Pere Common Council voted 7-1 Tuesday, May 4 to repeal what remained of the order, about 24 hours before the local mask mandate ended.
The vote came despite the De Pere Health Department making a case for keeping the health emergency order in place.
In a memo to the board, Sara Lornson, public health officer and interim director with the De Pere Department of Health, cautioned the number of coronavirus cases in Brown County has increased by 63 percent in the past two weeks.
Northeast Wisconsin has a higher rate of cases with more coronavirus variants of concern than elsewhere in the state – 17 percent of coronavirus cases are coronavirus variants, compared with the statewide average of 9 percent – and most people getting sick are under age 35, Lornson said.
“More people are gathering, and we’re really seeing that as the biggest cause of an increase in cases, especially in younger people,” she said.
She reminded the board of the surge in cases the area endured last fall and said it overwhelmed public health and health care systems.
“With the current cases, variant strain and a large unvaccinated population, we could see this happen again,” Lornson said.
She cited surges in Michigan and Minnesota that could presage one here.
About 35 percent of Brown County residents are fully vaccinated, she said.
The city is now offering walk-in vaccinations, which are new.
Lornson warned repealing the emergency order could result in reduced awareness among the community that the risk of contracting the illness remains, or that the pandemic is over.
It could lead to lax health practices, and fewer people getting tested for the virus or vaccinated.
It could also put the city in the position of not being able to “easily and quickly respond to changing guidance and situations,” she said.
Lornson said 80 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated before the virus no longer spreads, and because no vaccine is 100-percent effective, other mitigation measures should be used as well.
Council President Jonathan Hansen cast the sole nay vote, citing Lornson’s memo, the presence of coronavirus variants and the 63 percent increase in coronavirus cases.
Rescinding the emergency order includes more than masks.
• Late fees and credit card fees imposed by the city will no longer be waived.
• The allowance of 80 hours of coronavirus emergency leave for city employees terminates.
• The city administrator and fire chief will no longer have the power to cancel or limit public events due to a health emergency (although weather and other safety-related reasons for cancellation still apply).
• The temporary authority granted to the city administrator to authorize going forward with an emergency or time-sensitive project without soliciting public bids ends.
• City hall will reopen May 10.
• Garbage and recyclable placement/preparation specifications, which were waived, will go back to the pre-pandemic default sometime this month. City administrator Larry Delo said residents would be notified at least a week in advance.