Dissent for the proposed Winnebago County Health Ordinance was met with cheers from the crowd as residents voiced their concerns over further COVID-19 restrictions at the County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday evening.
“The intersection of government and health care policy is a dangerous proposition where special interests and agendas flourish,” Winnebago County resident Carol Keener said at the meeting.
While neither issues were on the agenda, many residents urged the board to vote down the proposed health officer amendment and encouraged the board not to make face masks mandatory in the county.
The proposed amendment to the County Health Officer code would give the health officer authority to close schools, forbid public gatherings, quarantine people and disinfect buildings to control outbreaks of communicable diseases.
The County Board was originally set to vote on the amendment at their last meeting in June, but tabled the issue after pushback from residents called for more public input.
Oshkosh resident Glenn Petsin said he was concerned with giving the health officer sole authority to shut down schools and businesses.
“It is draconian to give somebody in the health department total rule to shut down our county,” Petsin said. “This affects livelihoods [and] people’s income.”
Oshkosh resident Steve Karlin said giving the county health officer power to quarantine people and forbid public gatherings goes against the U.S. Constitution.
Karlin said he believes the proposed amendment is a power grab by the county health officer intended to limit the rights of county residents.
“So many people are jumping on the bandwagon against this amendment because the buzzwords ‘taking away our rights’ was thrown out there,” Oshkosh resident Lois Gruetzmacher said.
Gruetzmacher said she is in favor of the amended health ordinance because the power to control the spread of COVID-19 is important for maintaining a healthy society.
“This is about assuring that the health department has the authority to protect the community from communicable diseases and threats to our health,” she said.
Opposition to the amendment was frequently met with cheers and chants of “we will not comply” from members of the crowd, while the crowd shouted at and interrupted those who spoke in favor of the proposal.
Many residents voiced their concerns with the portion of the amendment that states the health officer can enter private property to remove “any person affected by a communicable disease if necessary to promote the safety and welfare of the public.”
Oshkosh resident Dan Shay disagreed with this, saying that this power was unconstitutional.
“I’m disheartened by the language that I read in [the ordinance],” Shay said. “I was disgusted by the language, disgusted how somebody could just come into a person’s house.”
However, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris said the authority to quarantine infected people is already granted…