What is and isn’t in Milwaukee’s mask mandate

July 9, 2020

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Specific details are now available on Milwaukee’s proposed mask ordinance.

The proposal would require individuals over the age of one to wear masks both indoors and outdoors when they leave home, with limited exceptions.

Scheduled to be introduced Tuesday, July 7, 2020, by Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, the proposal is expected to be reviewed during a yet-to-be-scheduled special meeting of the Public Safety & Health Committee and then would go forward to the full Common Council for adoption. A council committee spent almost two hours debating the merits of a mask mandate last week.

Individuals would be required to “have possession” of a mask anytime they leave home and wear the mask whenever in an indoor public space.

A similar outdoor requirement is included, but only when an individual is within 30 feet of an individual that isn’t a member of their household.

The only explicit exceptions in the proposal are for individuals under the age of two, individuals who have upper- respiratory chronic conditions and silent disabilities, and those exempted under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance due to a medical condition, mental health condition, development disability or other Americans with Disabilities Act provision and individuals in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings.

Examples for settings that are impractical or infeasible to wear a mask include dental services and medical treatments. Explicit guidance on practices within bars and restaurants isn’t included.

A separate council resolution would require Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik to set up a program to distribute free face masks on an as-requested basis to at least half of the city’s residents, approximately 300,000 people. It grants the Milwaukee Health Department the ability to accept up to $100,000 in in-kind donations for the effort.

Penalties, enforced by the health department, for violating the indoor requirement are to be a warning and opportunity for compliance first, followed by a citation of not less than $50 and not more than $500. The Health Commissioner is provided with the authority to shut down any business that fails to enforce the ordinance more than twice. The outdoor requirement does not have an enforcement mechanism.

Face masks are defined as any protective mask covering the nose and mouth, including cloth face coverings and surgical masks.

All city employees, including sanitation employees and police officers would be required to wear masks when in city buildings in all cases and when out in the field if the ordinance requires it.

“In my view this is an important moment for city government to do what is needed to protect the health and safety of our citizens, of essential workers, and the entire community. I look forward to the robust discussion that will take place around this ordinance in the coming days,” said Dimitrijevic in a statement.

A letter from 75 businesses calling for a mask mandate was submitted to Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson last week. Both have endorsed the concept of a mandate.

A full copy of the proposed ordinance and the free-mask program resolution can be found at https://urbanmilwaukee.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Masks-for-all-resolution.pdf.

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