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La Crosse mayor: Time to be more assertive about COVID-19 safety
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La Crosse mayor: Time to be more assertive about COVID-19 safety

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La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said Monday the city is doing everything within its authority to combat the coronavirus and he has asked the county to consider mandating face masks or create a local safer-at-home order.

Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

“We are all very concerned about the recent uptick in case numbers and seeing the spread of the virus throughout La Crosse County. I want the public to know that we are doing everything within the city’s ability and authority to try to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Kabat said.

The city of La Crosse has as many staff members as possible working from home and required all staff members to wear a face covering while in public while on duty.

While Kabat has fielded requests to mandate wearing face masks in public or create a city-specific safer-at-home order, he said the authority for that rests with local health departments.

“I believe there is local authority through the health statutes, and that rests with La Crosse County,” Kabat said. “In the meantime, we all are encouraging our residents to do the right thing by limiting travel, by social distancing, wearing masks, practicing good hygiene and avoiding groups of people outside of your household.”

Kabat said he met with county officials and asked them to consider a mandate, but noted that other counties, including Dane and Racine counties, which created local safer-at-home orders, have faced legal challenges.

La Crosse County Health Director Jen Rombalski said Monday any widespread order on masks would be “essentially unenforceable.”

“Anything that would be broad and global across the whole county is not something that we believe we have the authority to do. At the health officer level, at the county board level, at the city level, at any level,” she said.

However, she agreed with Kabat that the community needs to be following public health guidelines.

“I think at this point, we’re getting beyond simple encouragement and we need to start asserting more direct action to help each other, to protect each other,” Kabat said.

Kabat praised the work of the La Crosse County Health Department as it works to keep people informed and combat misinformation.

“We continue working closely with the La Crosse County Health Department and utilize their county Compass to help guide us,” Kabat said.

The mayor called on business owners to exert their authority to protect the public health, and asked Downtown Mainstreet and the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce to do the same.

“We are trying to encourage our business community to utilize their own abilities and authorities within their business to require masks and to require social distancing for employees and customers. We all strongly encourage our businesses to do that,” Kabat said.

The city of La Crosse has closed its two beaches and three city pools, canceled all large gatherings in the parks and city facilities. The La Crosse City Hall is closed, and the neighborhood centers are closed except for people who have reservations for events with 10 or fewer people.

The La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department cancelled many of its summer programs; however, outdoor facilities are being kept very busy.

“We’re seeing a huge uptick in the use of parks and trails. Also, we’re seeing tremendous use of our boat landing facilities and picnic areas,” said La Crosse parks director Jay Odegaard.

With the cancellation of programs, staff members are able to focus on cleaning efforts. Odegaard asked people to maintain social distancing in the parks as well.

“With 50-plus parks in the city, if you get to one that’s a little crowded, you won’t have to travel far to see another one,” he said.

The library continues to offer virtual programs, as well as curbside service.

The closures have not affected critical services, including street repairs, police and fire response, transit, and water and sewer utilities.

“Please wear a mask. Help protect others. Let’s show that La Crosse is all about helping each other. We have to do our part,” Kabat said.

Visit cityoflacrosse.org for up-to-date information on how the city is adapting to the coronavirus crisis.

“Anything that would be broad and global across the whole county is not something that we believe we havwe the authority to do. At the health officer level, at the county board level, at the city level, at any level.” Jen Rombalski, county health director

“I think at this point, we’re gettingz

beyond simple encouragement and

we need to start asserting more

direct action to help each other, to

protect each other.” Tim Kabat, mayor of La Crosse

Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

“I think at this point, we’re getting beyond simple encouragement and we need to start asserting more direct action to help each other, to protect each other.”

Tim Kabat, mayor of La Crosse

Quote

“Anything that would be broad and global across the whole county is not something that we believe we have the authority to do. At the health officer level, at the county board level, at the city level, at any level." 

Jen Rombalski, county health director

Quote

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