The Milton City Council unanimously passed two actions Tuesday encouraging people to wear face masks.
The first, defined as a “public mask advisory,” issues guidelines in accordance with those released by county, federal and world health officials.
The advisory goes into effect Wednesday, July 29.
The advisory outlines six points, the first of which informs the public that the advisory is not a “mandate, requirement or ordinance” and is “not enforceable.”
It advises those 2 years old and older to “wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19” and adopt other best practices “proven to be most effective” to slow the disease, such as washing hands, using hand sanitizer and practicing physical distancing.
Other goals include supporting community members wearing masks and businesses requiring masks while strongly encouraging masks among those not wearing or requiring them.
Mayor Anissa Welch said she had received numerous emails about the mask advisory.
Outlining steps taken in past months to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic, Welch said the council had allowed people to cancel park reservations without penalty, suspended reevaluations of property taxes, delayed dates to apply for some licenses and reduced fees, among others.
“Consistently, the council has looked for ways to help our community navigate through this unprecedented pandemic. The mask advisory is consistent with that effort,” she said.
She said the communications she'd received showed a “level of emotion” not present with earlier mitigations.
During public comments, a member of the community said she was immune compromised and the advisory “gives me a little more freedom to go out in public.”
During discussion, council members each made statements in support of the advisory.
Many said they, too, had received calls and email.
Council member Theresa Rusch said community members were confused, believing the advisory was a mandate.
“I do plan to support this as it is an advisory and not a mandate,” she said. “I’d advise us to wear a mask, but it is your choice.”
“I’m proud to be an American, and with that comes both freedom and responsibility,” said council member Larry Laehn.
Hulick said many contacting him expressed “confusion.” He thought, he said, the advisory had been unfairly reported in the press.
Many thought it was a mandate, he said, noting the council had written the advisory with a first statement, which reads: “This is only a public health advisory. This is not a mandate, requirement, or ordinance …”
Rusch said while listening to a “news station” she had heard the advisory called a mandate. The station later reported it was an advisory. She thought that was the source of some of the confusion, she said.
In a separate action, council approved an update to its existing face mask policy, directed at city employees and officials, requiring visitors at “all public facilities" to wear masks where physical distancing is not possible.
Parks and associated facilities, such as shelters and the city’s Community House, and polling places, are excluded from the policy, although wearing masks in those places is encouraged, City Administrator Al Hulick wrote in a memo to the council.