The Marshfield Board of Aldermen will consider issuing a mask ordinance at its next regular meeting Sept. 10.
During that meeting, a public hearing will be held so that community members can provide input on the issue. That meeting is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the Marshfield City Hall.
A meeting to consider the language of the ordinance and to discuss the procedure for the public hearing will be held this Thursday at 6:30 p.m., but this is not the public hearing. NOTE: The paper edition of The Marshfield Mail incorrectly states that this Thursday's meeting is the public comment session; the public comment will be during the Sept. 10 regular meeting.
East Ward Aldermen Rob Foster asked that the board accept its leadership role in passing a mask ordinance. It was a move that came at the end of a meeting that included a question-and-answer session with the county’s COVID-19 task force, which has been changed into an advisory board and appears to be dissolving.
Since last week's issue of The Mail, 39 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county.
Foster told the board, "It's our job to lead. I wish folks above us were doing that, and they have abdicated, they have forfeited their ability and their place to lead, so it knocks down to us."
Some have noted that a mask ordinance is impossible to enforce because of allowable exceptions (such as people with medical conditions or small children). Additionally, some people will game the system and opt out, lie or game the system, Foster said.
"For me, I'm in complete support of being leaders, not enforcers, because people will game," Foster said. "It's not our specific job to be able to be out there and enforce everything."
He added, "I am completely in favor of us mandating masks and contributing to trying to make a better situation in this pandemic and be judged accordingly in hindsight that we did something to try to lead and make a difference."
Foster pointed out that New York City made remarkable strides in getting on top of the COVID-19 outbreak through its mandatory mask order. "It's precisely because there are varying opinions from lay people, the average person on the street, about whether it's important to have a mask or not," he said. "But on the other hand, we have the highest authorities in the medical field in our land really feel like it is important and there seems to be some evidence that it does help to have masks."
Mayor McNish noted that other communities that had similar public hearings experienced large crowds — not desirable in a pandemic — and she is considering an alternate location. To listen to the discussion of the proposed language of the ordinance, persons may attend this Thursday's special Aldermen meeting in person or by video conference through Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82945866755, meeting ID: 829 4586 6755.
McNish indicated that she wanted there to be as much time for review as possible, but that if a mask ordinance was to be enacted, it would need to be done soon.
The agenda for this Thursday calls for a COVID-19 update, a review of the draft ordinance of mask legislation, an outline for public comment procedures and a time for elected officials to offer individual comments. Again, to clarify, the actual public hearing will be held on Sept. 10, and the public is invited to give input then.