Watertown Alderwoman Linda Kilps told Watertown Common Council members Tuesday she received calls from some residents who are upset with businesses not following the state mask mandate.
“Who made the law not to enforce wearing masks?” Kilps asked. “The people I’ve talked with said they have been getting the run-around when they go to city hall or the police department.”
Watertown Police Chief Robert Kaminski said his officers are “not, not enforcing” the order, but are working to educate business owners on the mask mandate.
Watertown Mayor Emily McFarland said she spoke with a representative from Gov. Tony Evers’ office, who told her the state-ordered mask policy has no application to businesses, but only individuals.
“When they were looking at this mandate, they were looking for it to stick,” McFarland said. “They were not looking at enforcement as they were looking more to voluntary compliance.”
She also said Tuesday Watertown police dispatch fielded nearly five calls from residents referencing a complaint against a business related to the mask mandate.
“It’s not a mask mandate for businesses,” Kaminiski said. “Businesses are not required to give masks out to people. There can be no enforcement of the mask mandate on a business. It’s on the person to wear a mask. We, as officers, can’t ask health questions to a person who is not wearing a mask.”
He said if an individual fails to wear a mask in a private business and doesn’t comply with the business owner’s orders, the individual could be fined for trespassing, but not for not wearing a mask. The mask mandate can only be enforced by the county’s district attorney, Kaminiski said.
“Businesses cannot ask, ‘Why are you not wearing a mask?’ Private businesses can require masks, but, right now, we are using this as an opportunity to educate businesses on the mandate,” Kaminski said. “Businesses can’t ask customers or employees why someone is not wearing a mask because some individuals do not need to wear mask if they have underlying health conditions, which leaves them exempt from the mask mandate.”
Kilps asked who should she direct residents to when when they have concerns of a business allowing its employees and patrons to not wear masks.
McFarland said the calls can be forwarded to her or Kaminski.
“Our goal is to educate the public about wearing wearing masks and seeking voluntary compliance rather than cite people,” she said.
In her COVID-19 update, which has become a mainstay of the common council meetings of 2020, McFarland said 3,533 total cases have been investigated in Watertown, with 168 confirmed cases with five being probable. She said 150 of the 168 COVID-19 cases have recovered and 3,129 were deemed to not have been cases.
McFarland said a majority of people who have contracted COVID-19 in Watertown are between the ages of 20 and 29 and 30 and 39. She said there has been some cases within the 10 and 19 age group, too.
McFarland said the city has been trying to use the $389,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act “wisely and creatively.” She said she doesn’t want to see the money taken away from Watertown and given to other municipalities.
“We are looking at things such as additional cleaning supplies, defoggers and UV lights for the upcoming influenza season,” she said.
In other business, Watertown Common Council members voted 8-1 on having police liaison officers in the high and middle schools next fall.
Kilps voted against having the officers in the schools and questioned if it’s the best way to use the police.
“Right now, we are not sure if we are going to have school and if we have schools go virtually do we need the officers?” she said following Tuesday’s meeting.
“I really don’t think it’s the best use of police resources right now.”