Mask

Amery city leaders were urged to mandate mask-wearing in city businesses during July’s City Council meeting. Tom Olson, owner of ACME Junk Company spoke before the council.

“I’m here to draw your attention to the current state of affairs when it comes to COVID-19. Probably nobody in this room right now has more time than me to sit around and watch CNN and other news channels,” said Olson.

He said in Wisconsin’s numbers are climbing. “As both a merchant in town and a susceptible senior, I am looking to gain support for mandatory wearing of masks in all commercial facilities,” said Olson.

He said after having ACME closed down for multiple months due to COVID-19, he cannot afford to go through another shutdown, which he fears could be the case in the future.

“If we as a progressive small town in rural Wisconsin can help lead the way, following several metropolitan Twin Cities suburbs and require face masks, it could be a real feather in our cap. We could do press releases telling the world that we are stepping forward in doing what in necessary to help tame the rapid increase of COVID-19 infections,” Olson said.

He said he had already talked to three of the council members concerning the topic. “I’m guessing this is about as far as it goes unless you decide to talk about it some more. It is something I really want to encourage you folks to step up and say ‘yes.’ Help combat this by having an ordinance so I am not the only business that has people coming to the door saying, ‘I am not going in there because I do not want to wear a mask,’” he said.

Olson said if it was a city ordinance it would have a little more “meat on the bone” than if it just his business saying masks are required.

Later in the meeting, council member Rick Van Blaricom revisited the mask conversation. “I realize we cannot make anything official with Tom Olson’s request because he really wasn’t on the agenda, but can we adopt a synthetic resolution or at least discuss it?”

Patty Bjorklund, Interim City Administrator, City Clerk-Treasurer and Office Manager for the City of Amery suggested they add it to the next agenda July 20.

“I don’t have a particular feeling myself,” said Van Blaricom.

Mayor Paul Isakson said, “I think we better plan ahead for a second wave, so the city should have some plan in place.”

Isakson said he is receiving calls from both sides; those who feel mask wearing in city businesses should be required, and those who do not. “It’s kind of a two-sided coin,” he said.

He said materials had been sent out to business owners from the Wisconsin Municipalities the previous week to provide some COVID-19 guidence.

Van Blaricom said he had recently traveled across the country and it seemed as if below 90 percent of people were wearing masks everywhere they go. “I certainly empathize with folks who would like to see people wearing them,” he said.

Van Blaricom said he had no problem with the city saying they strongly urge people to wear masks. As far as requiring it, he said, “I don’t think I’m ready to make an ordinance.”

“I don’t think we legally can. It may need to come from Polk County,” said Isakson.

Van Blaricom replied, “There seems to be some discussion on whether they can legally do it either.” He reiterated that maybe “strongly suggest” would be better wording.

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