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State Employees Required To Wear Masks In State Buildings Regardless Of Vaccinations

Order Applies To Buildings Operated By State Agencies Other Than UW System Campuses, Technical Colleges, Public Schools

Gov. Evers speaks at a lectern while wearing a white face mask.
Gov. Tony Evers speaks to reporters about the future community-based coronavirus vaccination clinic Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers has directed state employees to wear face masks indoors regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

New guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Administration notes that the move is due to the increased spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in the U.S. and follows guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“Therefore, all state employees, contractor staff, and unvaccinated members of the public are required to properly wear face coverings while in state facilities,” said the DOA guidance document. “Additionally, all employees and contractor staff are required to properly wear face coverings in other enclosed buildings while on state business.”

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In a statement emailed to WPR, Department Secretary Joel Brennan said the goal of the order is “to provide a safe environment for all Wisconsin state employees and members of the public.”

“ It is with that goal in mind that we updated guidance to include a requirement effective August 5, 2021, for all executive branch state agency employees and contractors to mask up in state facilities or while indoors on state business, regardless of vaccination status. We know that state employees are dedicated to serving the public, and that includes keeping the public safe when it comes to COVID-19.”

Vaccinated members of the public are encouraged but not required to wear face masks inside state-owned buildings. Citizens who have not been vaccinated must wear them in state buildings.

Evers has said he won’t issue a statewide mask mandate for residents, despite the CDC recommendation that people wear them indoors. In March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the Evers’ prior mask mandate for all Wisconsinites.

The DOA mask requirements apply to some parts of the Wisconsin State Capitol that are under the agency’s jurisdiction, according to a spokesperson. Those include common areas like the rotunda, bathrooms, elevators and hallways.

While the DOA order doesn’t apply to University of Wisconsin System campuses, UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee have reinstituted indoor mask requirements for students and employees regardless of their vaccination status. UW-La Crosse, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout have announced that masks will be “expected.” Administrators there are stopping short of saying masks are mandated for people on campus.

Some private universities and technical colleges have also acted to reimpose mask mandates. Bellin College in Green Bay, Herzing University in Menomonee Falls, Northland College in Ashland and Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee all require masks in buildings.

Milwaukee Area Technical College will issue an indoor mask mandate for all students and employees on Aug. 9. Madison Area Technical College issued its mask mandate for campus buildings Thursday.

Dr. Josie Veal, Milwaukee Area Technical College’s public health officer, said the decision is driven by the “increased spread of the delta variant of COVID-19” and the updated guidance from the CDC and Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“So, it really was a combination of looking at all of these factors and really knowing that the safety of our students and employees are important with our return to campus plans for full,” said Veal.

Madison Area Technical College Chief Operating Officer Mark Thomas echoed Veals concerns about the delta variant. He said even though it feels like reinstituting a mask mandate feels like a step in the wrong direction, he hopes it will quell further spikes of positive cases.

“The numbers continue to increase in terms of transmission in our region,” said Thomas. “And so we just felt it was prudent to go ahead and go back to requiring a mask. One of the best things you can do along with getting vaccinated is wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.”