Reinforcing the idea that public health decisions should be backed by scientific data and facts, the Board of Health for Madison and Dane County released a statement Thursday in response to a county supervisor’s suggestion to delay the mask mandate.
“The Board finds 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,” the Board said. “That is simply not true and further spreads misinformation.”
Supervisor Jeff Weigand introduced County Resolution 157, which urges Director of Public Health in Madison and Dane County Janel Heinrich to pull back on the recent mask mandate that went into effect Sept. 10.
Weigand said the mask mandate should be pulled back in favor of gathering community input and consent of the governed.
“Public Health deeply values the input of the community and key stakeholders and works hard to build relationships and engage with partners as much as possible,” the Board said. “However, during an emergency situation, taking additional time to gather community input could result in additional harm.”
The Board of Health pointed to comments from the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in their statement regarding slowing the spread of misinformation, for the spread of misinformation can get in the way of public health and cause mistrust.
University of Wisconsin Life Sciences Communication Professor Dietram Scheufele said public health measures in emergencies like the pandemic need to be determined quickly in order to effectively protect local communities in an email statement to The Badger Herald.
“If we have three big fires at the same time in our community, we don’t pause to gather public input on where to send firetrucks and first responders, we let professionals decide who we put in place to make decisions just like that,” Scheufele said. “Overflowing ICUs and a fight against aggressive variants of a deadly virus is not dissimilar from that.”
The Board concluded their statement emphasizing the data supporting the efficacy of masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19. They said wearing masks is a simple and responsible way to protect public health, and experts should be the ones guiding these public health decisions.