PRESS EDITORIAL: Port Council members act to protect their community

The Port Washington Common Council last Wednesday made what could be its most meaningful decision of the year, and it had nothing to do with taxes, real estate development, sidewalks, potholes or any of the other usual subjects of city government action. The decision, made by a unanimous vote, was to approve a resolution that requires face masks to be worn in city buildings and urges businesses to do the same in their premises.

The action was taken with impeccable timing. The resolution was enacted within days of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state face mask mandate, leaving the state with no enforceable guidance on face covering to limit the spread of Covid-19. And it takes effect just as a new surge of the disease, fueled by more infectious variants and the relaxing of gathering restrictions, threatens the state.

Wisconsin recorded 1,046 Covid cases on April 8, the highest number in two months. Fourteen deaths attributed to the virus were reported on that day. Reacting to the resurging force of the pandemic in surrounding states, health officials warn that infections, hospitalizations and deaths are bound to increase here before adequate immunity from vaccination can be achieved.  

In appealing for mask wearing, Willems Van Djk, deputy secretary of the state Department of Health Services, called on Wisconsinites to “recommit to stopping the spread.”

Even though Port Washington’s mask resolution is perfectly in line with that obviously sound advice, it took some fortitude for Council members to approve it. After it was reported in last week’s Ozaukee Press that the mask requirement would be on the Council agenda, they were subjected to some strong reaction from mask opponents.

That was the vocal anti-mask minority sounding off. Surveys have confirmed that the majority of Americans support mask wearing as a measure to limit the spread of the coronavirus because it is a medical science recommendation and a responsible act of concern for others in the community, especially those who serve the public in supermarkets, stores and other businesses. As can be seen in the near universal mask wearing by customers and workers in those establishments here, that includes the people of Ozaukee County.

Mask objectors claim mask-wearing rules and recommendations are invasions of their freedom. The commonplace seat belt, alcohol, smoking, shirt and shoe restrictions Americans get along with daily don’t have to be cited to expose the speciousness of the masks-steal-my-liberty argument. Free societies have always had the right to have their elected representatives put limits on behavior for the good of the population.

The mask controversy, of course, is more about politics than liberty, which explains the fate of Wisconsin’s mask order. It can be assumed that it was because the order was signed by a Democratic governor that Republican state legislators took the extraordinary step of petitioning the Supreme Court to strike it down. That would not have happened if a Republican governor had signed the order. In a number of states, mask orders that were as least as stringent as Wisconsin’s were issued by Republican governors and not challenged in court.

The Port Council’s mask resolution should serve as an example for other local government units. If by some form of virtual osmosis the enlightened intentions of the resolution could seep through City Hall walls and into the neighboring Ozaukee County Courthouse, where some elected officials have made no secret of their anti-mask views, the County Board might see the light and adopt mask wearing standards for county buildings.

The Port Washington Common Council will be dealing with some weighty issues in the remaining months of 2021, but none is likely to mean more than the vote last week that will help protect the health and even the lives of the people of Port Washington until community immunity is reached through vaccination.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494
 

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