HUDSON -- The Common Council discussed a possible mask requirement in the city, but did take any action on implementing one.
Council member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt said she knows it’s a controversial issue, but wanted to have the conversation Monday night.
“I’m just not comfortable saying, 'Our hands are tied, we can’t do anything, it’s up to the county,'” she said.
Atkins Hoggatt said she would like to see the requirements in place for any indoor space. For restaurants and bars, that means customers would wear masks when not at their tables.
She has heard from several businesses who have asked the council to have the discussion. The city’s small businesses were hit the hardest during the first shutdown, and are now working hard to protect their employees, she said.
Mayor Rich O’Connor asked if the business owners who are concerned have a mandatory mask requirement for their facilities.
Atkins Hoggatt said they don’t want to be the mask police.
“They feel like they already took such a big hit with the first closure, that potentially turning people away at the door. They just don’t want to be the people that are taking the hit on it again,” she said.
The city’s police are potentially going to be more at risk then, O’Connor said, dealing with people who aren’t wearing masks that they likely wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
Council member Jim Webber said the city could create posters for businesses that say the city requests that people wear a mask and social distance, as a sign of support.
Council member Joyce Hall said the county’s numbers are going up, and she thinks they do have enough information to declare a state of emergency and put a mask ordinance in place. As of July 6, the county had 236 positive cases, and of those 111 are active cases.
O’Connor said percentage-wise the county’s numbers aren’t going up that much. Hudson Hospital has said it is not under any stress. He said that whether people wear masks or not, numbers are going to go up and down.
In the state, City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said there is one ordinance with mask requirements in Racine, but it is in litigation. The city of Milwaukee is bringing one up later this week, City Administrator Aaron Reeves said, and some cities in Minnesota have requirements in place.
Council member Paul Deziel said he’d be open to looking at a mask requirement, but would want the city to establish when it would want to move in the direction, and based on what. He said the city should also look at hosting a hearing to get public feedback, discuss what the enforcement and penalties would be and what the duration of an ordinance would be. Medical exceptions also have to be considered.
Hall said her concern is if the numbers go up quickly and the city waits too long, they could reach a point where they missed an opportunity to keep the numbers down. She said it would be good to have Munkittrick draft an ordinance, so it can be ready to implement when numbers rise.
Mukittrick said the city would need to declare a state of emergency before implementing a mask ordinance. Declaring an emergency requires the city to give a basis with facts and circumstances as for why there is an emergency locally.
Council member Randy Morrissette II said they need to tap the brakes, as they have a lot of information to gather before they declare an emergency.
The country, state, and county have all already declared states of emergency, Deziel said.
The county has a public health officer, O’Connor said, and has not imposed any type of restriction.
The issue will be on the next meeting’s agenda.