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Dane Co. Board supervisor seeks to halt mask order

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jeff weigand

Dane County Board Supervisor Jeff Weigand wants to halt the latest indoor mask order.

MADISON (WKOW) -- One of the newest members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors has proposed a resolution that would pause the county's indoor mask mandate.

Jeff Weigand, who represents a district just east of Sun Prairie, filed a resolution last Friday that would pull back the latest emergency order from Public Health Madison & Dane County, which includes a mask order for indoor spaces, until public health officials present their reasoning in a public hearing before the board.

Weigand said he believed elected officials should have to sign off on any such orders moving forward.

"I want this issue to be debated, I want there to be public hearings in the public as to the science and the benefits and the negative impacts of wearing masks," Weigand said. "And then I want the issue to be deliberated and decided on by the county board."

Analiese Eicher, the chair of the 37-member board, represents the heart of Sun Prairie. While her district borders Weigand's, her approach directly contrasts what Weigand's resolution seeks.

Eicher said she believed, during a pandemic, elected officials should consistently defer to the public health experts.

"Them having the authority to issue orders and to protect the health of our community without the influence of politicians, I think that's incredibly important," Eicher said.

Weigand argued while it may have been appropriate to grant public health officials the ability to enact emergency orders on their own early in the pandemic, the public now understands enough about COVID-19 to have its elected representatives sign off on any new orders.

"We're a year and a half into COVID-19," Weigand said. "I think a lot of us are a lot more educated that we were initially when this issue first came out. Now I think it's appropriate for the citizens, the elected officials, to have a voice in this process."

Eicher countered that any new knowledge gained by ordinary citizens did not compare to what infectious disease experts have learned.

"As much as our knowledge, as a general public, has evolved on this, so has the knowledge of the scientists who are trained and who are the experts," Eicher said.

In a statement Friday, a spokesperson for Public Health Madison & Dane County referred to language in state law that reads local public health officers have a duty to "promptly take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress and control communicable diseases."

Eicher acknowledged hearing from frustrated constituents in the performing arts over what they believe is inconsistent guidance forcing musicians and singers to perform with masks indoors while not having any new restrictions on restaurants and taverns aside from the general mask order.

"We have a really vibrant band community here in Sun Prairie and I know there are a lot of concerns," Eicher said. "I think that is an evolving conversation with public health, from my understanding."

Back to the legal drawing board

Weigand's resolutions came while the conservative legal group, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, had filed a suit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court asking the court to strike down the mask order.

The court ruled 4-3 Friday against taking the case on original action, meaning it would allow the case to bypass the circuit and appellate courts. Conservative justice Brian Hagedorn sided with the court's three liberal justices on the ruling.

Hagedorn has ruled similarly in other cases where conservatives asked the state's highest court to take their case immediately.

Weigand said his resolution was separate from the lawsuit and he had been advised by the county's lawyers to avoid commenting on the outside litigation.

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