Dane County Issues Mandatory Mask Order For All Indoor Public Spaces Starting Monday

City Of Milwaukee Considering Mask Ordinance For Indoors And Outdoors

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A man and a girl wear masks
A man and a girl wear masks as they stop to hear a band outside a music venue Monday, June 29, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

People will be required to wear masks or face coverings in any indoor public space in Dane County beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 13. It’s the latest step from health officials to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus as cases continue rise in Wisconsin.

Public Health Madison & Dane County issued an emergency order Tuesday, requiring masks for everyone 5 and older. The only exception is if a person is in their own home. The requirement applies to all of Dane County.

“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in a written statement. “Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house.”

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The requirement makes exceptions for some activities like eating in restaurants, as long as social distancing measures are followed. “People are also exempted if they have a physical, mental, or developmental condition that prevents them from wearing a mask,” said a press release from PHMDC.

Heinrich previously said Dane County would not have a mandatory mask requirement because it could place an undue burden on some people. On Tuesday, she said that burden still exists.

“These orders are not justification for people to harass, police or harm individuals for wearing a mask or not wearing a mask,” Heinrich said at a press conference on Tuesday. “These orders are for businesses to enforce mask wearing in their own spaces and for individuals to make changes to their own mask-wearing practices.”

Meanwhile, Milwaukee officials are considering a policy that would make masks mandatory at all indoor public spaces and outdoors, if a person is within 30 feet of someone who is not a family member.

The widespread ordinance, being dubbed “MKE Cares” will be considered by the city’s public health and safety committee before moving to the full Common Council. City officials would like to have a mask policy in place before the council’s August recess.

“The time to act is now, we cannot stand by while new cases soar, school reopening discussions are taking place, and people continue to die,” said Alder Marina Dimitrijevic, who drafted the ordinance. “We won’t look back and regret this science-supported action to protect our loved ones, but we will regret it if we do not act.”

MKE Cares has gotten support from more than 12,000 people who have signed an online petition, and more than 140 Milwaukee business owners who sent a letter to Mayor Tom Barrett calling for a mandatory mask ordinance.

In Milwaukee, the fine for not wearing a mask could be between $50 and $500.

During a press conference Tuesday, Barrett said he has been working with the city attorney’s office to make sure the proposal could withstand a legal challenge. Barrett said he would prefer the council pass a mask ordinance, but if they fail to, he would consider directing the city Health Department to do so.

According to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health Services, Dane County has seen 2,510 positive coronavirus cases and Milwaukee has had 12,539.

During a DHS briefing Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Tony Evers said implementing a statewide mask order would be “unlikely” given that the state Supreme Court struck down his administration’s “Safer at Home” order in May, but didn’t rule it out entirely, saying, “it’s something that we are considering.” Evers urged people not to make masks a political issue, saying the coronavirus, “doesn’t give a crap about whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”

Republican leaders in the state Legislature didn’t return requests for comment.

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