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'We need to keep each other healthy': Wisconsin faces first weekend under mask mandate

Richard Reeve
Updated: August 01, 2020 10:48 PM
Created: August 01, 2020 10:30 PM

Hudson, Wisconsin is a tourist town and a popular destination for Minnesotans. 

Now, like the rest of the state, it’s under a brand-new mask mandate signed by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this week.

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“I think it’s a great idea,” said gallery owner Angel MacMenamin. “As a community, we need to keep each other healthy, and we need to keep our economy going.”

MacMenamin took ownership of the Seasons on St. Croix Gallery on Friday. The business was earlier forced to close for three months because of concerns about the pandemic. 

A sign outside the front entrance encourages customers to wear masks.

"It's a very easy thing to wear a mask to keep your local business open and your employees healthy and safe,” says co-owner Rachel Renner. “And the people we serve: customers and tourists.” 

The Wisconsin order requires anyone aged 5 and older to wear a mask indoors or in an enclosed space open to the public, including outdoor bars and restaurants.

"Hudson is not really a big mask community in my opinion,” said Kristine Wanner of Hudson. “If think if everybody got on board, I think that would make it go away a lot faster.”

Many bars, restaurants and shops have mask signs outside. 

But inside and on the patios Saturday, it was a patchwork — servers were wearing masks, but many customers were not. 

"The workers have them on, but I don't know, nobody seems to be buying into it,” said J.J. Gieter, visiting from Hastings. “So, I don’t know— very, very few masks.” 

Violators are supposed to face a $200 fine.

But there’s a wrinkle. St. Croix Sheriff Scott Knudson says he won’t enforce the order. 

Knudson released a statement, which says in part:

“This virus is a public health concern, and I feel should be left to public health officials. ... While the governor likely has noble intentions, the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office will continue to focus on crimes and public safety offenses, as opposed to seeking out or responding to complaints about those without face coverings.” 

Kristine Wanner, a personal caregiver, says she worries most about her client, 23-year-old Sam Datt, who has autism. 

“He can't wear a mask but if he were to get sick, it could be deathly for him — deadly,” she said. “They know it's not going to be enforced, so it's been like this for a few weeks.”

But there are mask skeptics, like Aries Cogbill. 

“I feel like 70% of the population are going to get it anyways, so it’s something that can’t really be stopped,” he said. 

Still, Cogbill says he wears when he has to.

“But you’re not a fan?” he was asked. 

“No, not at all,” he said. “When I’m required to, like many people around here.”

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At least seven other Wisconsin sheriffs say they will not enforce the order. 

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers say they oppose what they call a "one-size-fits-all" mandate, saying the issue should be left to local officials. 

The order is to expire Sept. 28. 

MacMenamin says she hopes everyone will try to be safe, and help each other to do that.  

“I think there are concerns about that,” she said. “That’s what I think the two main factors are: health and our economy.”


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