Concerns of racial profiling delaying mask ordinance for Madison, health officials say

MADISON, Wis. – Health officials in Dane County say concerns over racial profiling and discrimination are delaying a potential citywide or countywide mask ordinance.

On Wednesday, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway joined with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Public Health of Madison and Dane County Director Janel Heinrich to announce the county’s response to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Heinrich said nearly half of the cases were linked to bars, leading to a mandatory shutdown.

“When increase is linked to certain sectors such as bars, we will consider targeted interventions,” Heinrich said.

However when Heinrich was asked about the possibility of the county creating a mask policy, she said leaders were still considering their options.

“We really want to make sure that the decisions that we make are looked at through an equity impact analysis to assure that any decision that is mandatory doesn’t have disparate impacts on individuals,” she said.

In a statement to News 3 Now, Heinrich further clarified her concerns.

“While we know masks work to help reduce the spread of the virus, a mandatory masking policy may place an undue burden on some people,” she said. “People may fear racial profiling or discrimination based on wearing–or not wearing–a face covering.”

In the statement, Heinrich said health officials are conducting an equity review to determine what impacts an ordinance would have. In the meantime, they’re encouraging people, while it is not a requirement, to wear a mask.