by CHRIS ROGERS
The Winona County Board voted 3-2 tonight to pave the way to passing a countywide mask mandate. The board agreed to hold a public hearing, likely in early September, on proposed changes to the county’s public health ordinance that would empower the County Board to require people to wear face masks in all indoor public settings throughout the county.
County Board members Marie Kovecsi, Chris Meyer, and Greg Olson voted in favor of the proposed mask mandate. Members Steve Jacob and Marcia Ward dissented.
“I do think this is the public safety issue,” Meyer said. “When we are still at a time when kids under 12 cannot be vaccinated, we are putting them at risk,” she added.
The County Board’s decision came after local health care leaders described hospitals in the region nearing capacity, with COVID cases surging. “We are being inundated with patients, and we are struggling to keep up,” Gundersen Lutheran Winona Campus Regional Manager Lindsey Styx stated, saying the health system’s La Crosse, Wis., has been full and forced to send patients elsewhere.
Ward said of wearing masks, “Do we highly recommend it, of course we do, but, again, that’s an individual decision.”
“They could [mandate masks] at the federal level. They could do it at the state level. If the city of Winona wants to do it, they can … For us to come up with a one-size fits all solution for the entire county, I can’t support that,” Jacob said.
After acknowledging concerns Jacob and Ward raised, Olson said, “… But I also think we need to be leaders.” In an interview, Olson stated, "If we do nothing, then nothing changes."
A public hearing date has not yet been set. Keep reading the Winona Post for more information.