Posted on

COVID-19 ordinance?

County officials will seek public engagement plan

Members of the Marathon County Health and Human Services on Thursday agreed to meet with county administrator Lance Leonhard in coming weeks to come up with a way to engage the public on having a COVID-19 ordinance.

Committee chairman Tim Buttke, town of Stettin, and vice-chairwoman Michelle Van Krey, Wausau, said they would work on a public engagement plan with the county administrator.

The decision to make progress on a plan followed a request from committee member William Harris, Wausau, to have the committee not just talk about a COVID-19 ordinance but, now that the Wisconsin Counties Association has determined such an ordinance would be constitutional, do something.

“We need a way forward,” he said.

County health department director Joan Theurer said enforcing any COVID- 19 ordinance would be difficult, given public sentiment.

She said her department staffing has been in crisis mode since March-when COVID-19 cases were becoming more numerous--and that tasking staff people to do education in a public engagement plan would take away from people able to do contact tracing and responding to the public’s need for information. The department receives up to 80 COVID-19 related calls per day. “We have no capacity,” she said. Theurer said it would be difficult for county officials to lower COVID-19 numbers through attempted enforcement of an ordinance. “Behavioral change is tough,” she said. The director told supervisors it had taken the county a decade or longer to reduce the number of people smoking or abusing alcohol.

Theuer said that if the county wanted a public education effort to accompany a COVID-19 ordinance supervisors should think about hiring an outside facilitator.

Supervisor John Robinson suggested the county partner with health care providers to support a COVID-19 public engagement plan.