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Up until Wednesday’s announcement, city health officials have generally declined to enforce the ordinances. Instead, they have allowed businesses and individuals to police themselves and respond to calls for complaints. Now, the City of Racine Department of Public Health staff, in cooperation with the Racine Police Department, will “conduct proactive compliance inspections,” Dottie-Kay Bowersox said in a news release.
A city ordinance regarding facial coverings has been in place since late July. The ordinance requires individuals to wear facial coverings in any indoor public space, in outdoor public spaces (when with six feet of another person), and when riding in any form of public transportation. The city’s Safer Racine ordinance – detailing rules limiting building capacities, banning self-service, and prohibiting certain high-risk recreational activities – took effect in June.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to surge locally, in the county, and the state as a whole. We are seeing numbers equal to or greater than what we saw last April. As we enter the holiday season, we run the risk of losing complete control of the virus without significant changes to individual behaviors,” she said in a news release.
Bowersox said Wednesday that the current surge in COVID-19 cases made the enforcement necessary.
“Many businesses and individuals in the community are taking this virus incredibly seriously, doing what they need to do in order to stay safe, and we are very appreciative of that. At the same time, there are some in the community who could do better or who are simply refusing to do their part,” she said.
The City of Racine has seen 635 new confirmed cases in the last 14 days and a 5-day average positive test percentage of 27% as of Monday (October 26). The city’s case rate, or the number of new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, was nearly 800, far exceeding the previous high of 693 in late May.
Overall, Racine County also continues to see a significant spike in cases, with 1,556 new confirmed cases over the past two weeks. Wisconsin is now ranked fourth in the nation in terms of new cases over the past week, trailing Texas, Illinois, and California, all of which have populations significantly larger than Wisconsin.
Also, hospitalization rates are growing among COVID-19 positive individuals. Hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin report a 34% increase in COVID-19 positive inpatients and a 25% increase in COVID-19 patients in the ICU between October 7 and October 20, the most recent data available.
“We are out of control, and I guess that’s the best way I could put it within the state of Wisconsin,” Bowersox said. “Individuals simply are not staying home. They’re not staying home when they’re ill. They’re not wearing their mask appropriately and in the manner in which they need to wear it. And we’re just infecting each other. It’s just that simple.”
So what should you do if you see someone not wearing a mask out in public? If you are in a store, keep your distance and tell a manager, Bowersox said.
Violations of the Safer Racine ordinance have a forfeiture of up to $250. Individuals found to violate the mask ordinance are subject to a $25 penalty for the first conviction, $50 for the second conviction, and $100 for the third conviction. Operators of a business or a nonprofit entity that violate the mask ordinance are subject to a forfeiture of $50 to $500.
City officials may also pursue city license revocation for any business that fails to comply with the ordinances.
To review both ordinances, visit: https://www.racinecoronavirus.org/