RACINE, Wis. - The Racine Common Council voted to reinstate an indoor mask mandate during a virtual meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 31. The mask ordinance takes effect immediately.
Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox requested the ordinances and said just over 40% of Racine residents are fully vaccinated. Others say the policies would just set the city back.
Inside his store on Main Street in Racine, EYEopenerZ owner Ken Brown reflected on the pandemic's impact on his business.
"When all of your customers are locked up in their homes, it doesn't help to be essential if they're not coming out," Brown said. "It potentially just reduces the number of people who are going to want to come into Racine to do their shopping."
That is why Brown and a handful of others stood outside City Hall on Tuesday to show opposition to the COVID-19 policies just as the Common Council met virtually to consider them.
"This is onerous regulations, and it's completely unnecessary. Let us have our liberty. Let us have our freedom. Let people make their own intelligent choices," said Brown.
Group expresses opposition to COVID-19 ordinances outside Racine City Hall.
The health department's request for the new ordinances cited a low vaccination rate and high rate of transmission.
"It is necessary for additional prevention measures to be implemented to protect the health of the public," Bowersox said.
The reinstatement of the city's indoor mask mandate would apply to everyone ages 5 and older in public spaces – excluding private homes and offices not open to visitors. Not following mask policy could result in incremental fines starting at $25 for individuals and $50 for businesses.
"We're looking at mandating masks in public and private places with the result of revoking licenses and closing businesses. It's just too extreme," Alderman Henry Perez said.
"We have an obligation in our community to protect the vulnerable folks in our community," said Alderwoman Natalia Taft.
During Tuesday's meeting, the Common Council deferred a vote on weekly COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated city employees, wanting to first meet and discuss the proposed ordinance's impact with staff and bargaining representatives first.