MADISON, Wis. — Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is reacting to a proposed county board resolution that would ask public health officials to pull back their most recent mask mandate, saying he doesn’t think the resolution will “get much traction.”
Parisi says he stands behind Public Health Madison & Dane County director Janel Heinrich and other health officials who have issued several emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Dane County’s most recent order went into effect on September 10th and runs through at least October 8th.
“We have had lower infection rates, lower death rates, lower hospitalization rates than most of the folks in the state and many across the nation,” Parisi said in an interview with News 3 Now on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to rely on science and do what we can to protect our citizens.”
The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Jeff Weigand, urges Heinrich and PHMDC to revoke the latest emergency order “until public input and the consent of the governed has been achieved.”
Weigand says he drafted the resolution because he’s been frustrated with what he sees as a lack of transparency from Heinrich and Public Health.
“I don’t understand why the health board is so afraid of taking and receiving public input and I also don’t understand why they are afraid to share with us the information that goes into their decision making,” Weigand told News 3 Now. “So, I’m simply asking for that information to be shared, I’m simply asking for this to be a public conversation.”
The county’s Board of Health criticized Weigand and his resolution on Monday, saying they find it “extremely disheartening that Supervisor Weigand has chosen to use his platform to bring forth a resolution that suggests that public health decisions aren’t based on science, facts and data.”
Parisi says the public can weigh in on the orders at any time.
“We have a representative form of government. We’re all elected. I’m elected,” Parisi said. “People reach out to us and share their opinions constantly.”
Weigand says he has yet to get a response from Heinrich on his requests for more information and has not yet broached the topic with Parisi.
“I am open to any forum that they are willing to participate in. Whether that’s a public hearing, whether that’s a special hearing, whether that’s providing me information in writing, of which I’ve asked for numerous times and received no responses,” Weigand said.
He argues he wants the people of Dane County to have access to the same data health officials are working with.
“They deserve to have the data and the science that’s being reviewed shared with them so that they can make informed decisions themselves,” Weigand said.
PHMDC does keep a public dashboard of COVID data that is updated daily and keeps track of the latest case counts, hospitalizations, deaths and other trends, and Heinrich has provided data updates during Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s biweekly public briefings.
Health officials have also said the recent mask mandates are a precaution to protect kids under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated as they return to school. It’s a sentiment Parisi says he agrees with and supports.
“We, as adults, have a responsibility to do everything in our power to reduce the spread of COVID-19 so we can protect our children until they can be vaccinated,” Parisi said. “Right now they’re very vulnerable, you know, they’re counting on us to live up to our responsibility as adults.”
Weigand says he has reached out to the supervisor who chairs the committee in charge of his proposed resolution, but has not yet heard back. The next full County Board meeting is scheduled for a week from Thursday.